Elsa Schaefer asked a question today that provoked quite some energy in me. She asked if it were necessary to be able to accomplish something measureable in order to do ministry in the County Jail. It took me back to my days at Strong Hospital C.P.E. training. My nickname was “Mr. Fixit” and that was not a compliment. Chaplaincy as taught by that program is a ministry of presence, not of tasks. How does one measure the “success” of visiting someone who is scared, lonely or sad (or all of the above and more?) At Strong hospital, we used the acronym S.O.A.P. for our charting: Subjective impressions, objective observations, (spiritual) assessment, and plan. Frequently my ‘plan’ was to continue visiting. What we measured for the administration was number of visits, length of visits and number of patients visited. But how can one measure outcomes? Frequently the outcome was that the patient went home or “went home” and visits stopped. Is a chaplain “successful”? I don’t know. Likewise, how can one measure outcomes of a prison/jail ministry? The measureable data are violent incidents in the jail, and the commission of crimes by the releases, or recidivism. Elsa helps individuals by making phone calls to family and attorneys and landlords. I lead groups about self understanding and self-acceptance. How can she and I measure our outcomes? I understand the jail’s need to spend their time and money as effectively as possible. Is it then up to the Church (note the upper case) to provide the rest?