Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Measuring Success Missionally

Conventional wisdom says that it is impossible to manage what is not measured. And in the church, we've been told "God cares about numbers because numbers represent people and God cares about people."

So under the banner of accountability and stewardship, church leaders collect statistics to measure the effectiveness of ministry.

Eventually, we end up with thinking like this:
A [church] that is falling far short of excellence will be motivated to improve by learning from consultants and other [churches] at the top of its peer group; the [church] will also be able to mark and show donors its quantitative progress toward measurable excellence. Meanwhile, top performing [churches] not only help other [churches] emulate their success, but they are also motivated to keep setting the standards of excellence even higher. Most importantly from the fundraising perspective, a [church] has an instant report card that it can show its donors (noting both areas of excellence and areas for improvement). Finally, if a networked [church] is to invest in a consulting team for help, it must be equipped with tools allowing it to challenge and motivate each [church] affiliate.
(Each occurrence of [church] replaces either "organization" or "non-profit.")

But the church is not a business. It is the body of Christ, a living temple of God's presence. And our evaluations need to reflect that reality. Yet not everything that counts can be counted.

It seems to me that there are several issues here:
  • God's kingdom is not identical with the church, even though there is considerable overlap.
  • Jesus Christ is the head of the church and builds his church in his own time and in his own way.
  • While we have responsibilities regarding the advancement of God's kingdom, many of those responsibilities are difficult or impossible to define in quantifiable terms.

  • Measurement has several pitfalls
    • If the wrong things are measured, the focus gets diverted from what is truly important.
    • Over emphasis on the numbers can lead to the assumption we are totally responsible for increases and declines.
    • The most important factors cannot be reduced to a number in a spreadsheet.
    • While "numbers represent people," most statistical systems reduce people to just numbers.
  • "Growth" easily becomes an idol with pressure to improve the numbers from the previous reporting period.

I suspect that collecting stories is more important than collecting statistics.

But if we were going to collect numbers, what numbers would be useful?

Doug Resler published a list of Missional Metrics written by Hugh Halter
  • Number of new relationships formed where I know their names and they know mine.
  • Number of people who have been uniquely blessed by me and my community.
  • Number of people who invite me to be with their friends who don't follow Christ.
  • Number of ways, my street, neighborhood, or community are more livable because of my influence.
  • Number of Christians that are actively confronting their consumerism and making adjustments at the life level.
  • Number of Christians that I ask or persuade NOT to go on mission with us.
  • Number of incarnational communities that commit to form around benevolent action instead of just a bible study.
  • How long people remain at our weekly gathering after the formalities are over.
  • Number of community-based initiatives our people are supporting with their time or money.
  • Number of young leaders we're intentionally developing.
  • Number of people baptized for the first time.
  • Number of Bibles purchased because someone asked for one.

These are helpful as pointers toward missional-incarnational living. But I wonder how well they avoid some of the problems I identified above.

We certainly want to evaluate certain aspects of missional-incarnational living:
Genuine relationships with people, not prospects
Missional-incarnational influence in the neighborhood
Discipleship that bites into real life
Healthy community (communitas)

Perhaps more helpful than numbers would be a rubric to help us evaluate each of these areas.

Here's a suggestion for Genuine Relationships from a personal perspective.
-1I have neighbors, relatives or co-workers that I am "not talking to."
0I get along with my neighbors, relatives and co-workers.
1I know the names of my neighbors.
2I know personal information about my co-workers such as birthday, anniversary, names of family members, hobbies.
3I have bought a gift for a friend just because I saw something I thought they'd like (not for a specific occasion).
4I have done a favor for someone anonymously.
5I have a relationship with a non-relative with whom I spend time at least weakly.
6I have a relationship with a person who does not attend my church, and we talk about spiritual things
7I have a relationship with a person who is not a follower of Christ, and we talk about spiritual things.
8I have a relationship with a person who is an atheist or agnostic and we talk about spiritual things.
9People frequently ask me to pray for them.
10I frequently offer to pray for people.
11I frequently pray for people when we are together and they mention a need.
12I have non-relatives in my home at least once a month (besides church groups).

This would be more helpful than a raw number. Similar rubrics could be developed for each of the values of missional-incarnational living. Rubrics could also be created for congregational evaluation.

I would be interested in any comments you might have to improve the suggested rubric and any suggestions you might have for other rubrics.

Pastor Rod
"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Love the missional metrics list