Let’s face it, for the most part, we use two metrics to measure our “effectiveness” in ministry: 1) Butts in Seats (what Pastor hasn’t been asked that dreaded question: “So, how many ya’ runnin’ on a Sunday?”); and 2) Decisions (conversions, commitments, professions of faith, accepting Jesus as your personal Lord & Savior – call it what you will). [See Scot McKnight on why Evangelicalism’s obsession with decision-ism may be a gross misunderstanding of the gospel.]
In my opinion, for far too long, these have been the standard measures for determining success or failure of our churches. I read somewhere that the church growth movement may, in fact, have done a grave disservice to the church! Jesus’ final words to His disciples before leaving earth were to ‘Go and make disciples.’ Perhaps we need to look at the Great Commission for a better metric on how to measure the success of our churches (i.e. discipleship vice conversions), if indeed these are our primary marching orders!
How well are we doing at making and sending disciples? Could we come up with better metrics for measuring things like spiritual growth, spiritual maturity (conformity to the image of Christ, a.k.a. sanctification)? How do we measure that a person has moved from point A to point B on the spiritual formation spectrum?
To do this we will need to find the answers to questions like these:
- How many of our people are involved in a regular one-on-one (or one-on-many) discipleship relationship?
- How many are being discipled, and how many are discipling others (Ron Edmundson has a good post on indications that a church is making disciples that I think may provide a starting point for us here)?
- How many of us have a friend that we would be comfortable calling at 2am?
- What percentage of the people in our church are involved in small groups?
- How well are we doing at instilling a sense of (missional) sent-ness in our people (for some ideas, see this great post on measuring the sending capacity of your church)?
- How many of us have developed a regular habit of spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, fasting)?
- Have we recently experienced a breakthrough in overcoming some long battle with a habitual sin?
- Have you recently experienced a significant improvement in a personal relationship(s)?
I’m not quite yet sure exactly how you go about tracking this systematically. And I suspect that there are some out there who would question whether something like an annual congregational survey is the best way to accomplish this. But aren’t these the kind of things that we would really want to know (in trying to assess the “success” of our efforts in ministry) rather than just how many people we were able to convince to show up to church on any given Sunday? And I think we all know that not everyone who makes a “profession of faith” shows up the next week, or six months later: “Hey, whatever happened to _______? He/she was so on fire when they first got saved!” (if you’re having trouble with this concept read the Parable of the Sower). There has got to be a better metric than butts in seats!
So what do you think? Can you think of a list of 5 or 10 specific metrics to better measure successful discipleship and spiritual formation? Are there any questions that you would add to my list above? Am I on the right track here?!? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!