Friday, June 22, 2007

when everyone's super ... no one will be.

I read randomly at times and today learned that the vast majority of people using dating personal ads (written or via the miracle of the Internet) describe themselves as "above average."

This brought to mind 2 things: First, how inappropriately grades were distributed in school when a "C" is regarded as average. Average compared to what? If its the other students, then the distribution should not be such that everybody gets a "C" or above, for some have to be "below average" by definition.

Second, it reminded me of a survey I saw of pastors in the Spring 2007 edition of Leadership Journal. Almost 90 percent rated themselves as "above average" in preaching skills. Friends, 9 out of 10 aren't above average preachers. In fact, 9 out of 10 can't be above average.

When everyone is "above average" it means the terminology is no longer valid. Just like if everyone's special, then nobody is.

When everyone's super ... no one will be
, except perhaps a bicycle repairman.

I remember in my 8th grade math class learning about the bell curve and a normal distribution. In such a scenario, one standard deviation either side of the mean (i.e., average) would give us the vast majority of the occurrences.

For example, 68.2% of whatever should be average, give or take a margin of error. So, that leaves 15.9% above average and 15.9% below average.

Consequently, you might expect a grade distribution to be such that about 60% get a "C" while about 13% get a "B" and 13% get a "D" and 2% get a grade of "F" and 2% get a grade of "A" (or some such). In other words, about 15% would be above average.

Yet, the grade distribution is whacked, because the "F" really means failure, more so than "REALLY below average." If they're going for mastery of the content, measure that, but don't use terminology that is inherently comparative in nature.

With regard to preachers ... Okay, it's one thing to understand personal ads describing themselves as above average to attract a date/mate. It's understandable that folks could be self-deluded by vanity to think they're prettier than they are.

But, wouldn't you expect preachers to be a more humble lot? Would you not expect preachers to not think of themselves more highly than they ought? Wouldn't you expect them to have a more accurate measure of their proficiency?

I did, though I may have been a bit naive. I would have expected about 60% to see themselves as average and NO MORE than @ 15% to see themselves as above average. Could it be that preachers are a bit prone to vanity as well?

As one who preaches and trains preachers, this caught my attention. I also wonder what the congregations might say. Do 90% of them think their pastors' preaching is above average? Considering that the vast majority of church goers will NOT be in a "mega" church and considering all the napping that will be going this Sunday, I think not.


At 22 June, 2007 22:53, Blogger pdoane said...

As I heard one very well known motivational speker joke about himself: "I am part of the bottom 90% that made the top 10% possible".

At 23 June, 2007 22:13, Blogger GUNNY said...

That reminds me of what S.I. McMillen wrote in his book None of These Diseases when he told the story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?”

Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst.

To her surprise, she received this letter from the college:

“Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”


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