Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What does success look like in ministry?

One of the occupational challenges of working in denominational administration is wrestling with statistics or trying to finding meaningful metrics for ministry. (Do alliterations get on your nerves?)

Nickels and noses are easy. You may have to find more sophisticated means of capturing attendance and offering data as your church grows, but every church needs some handle on these basic indicators. These two stats don't tell you everything but they do tell you something. Sometimes they are most useful as prompts to know which questions to ask next! For example: "Why is attendance up?" or "Why is giving down?"

OK, that's a starting point. We also have health indicators (NCD, etc.) that we can survey. There are also ratios that we consider such as baptisms to attendance (5% or better is considered positive).

But, I found myself working through success measures in light of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18ff) ... making disciples, baptizing them, teaching them to obey. What if our only measure of success was how well we were fulfilling the Great Commission?

But, how do you measure effectiveness in making disciples?

What if the only measure of that effectiveness was that those that you thought were disciples were themselves making disciples? In other words, the only way that you knew for sure that you had been effective was the the person you believe you'd discipled was in turn effectively making other disciples.

A disciple is "a learner." What are they learning? The Great Commission says they are learning to obey all the commands that Jesus taught...which ultimately results in discipling others to obey all the commands that Jesus taught....to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in increasing measure as they learn to obey.

So, could it be that measuring what really matters is ultimately about determining whether the people we are discipling (by example and word) are themselves discipling (by example and word) others ... (see 2 Timothy 2:2).

If that is the case, what do the results look like for most churches?

How many people in your ministry are, or have been, directly engaged in "making disciples" with the results evidenced by those other individuals being baptized, learning how to obey Christ in every area of their life and discipling others?

Is that true of 50% of your congregation? 25%? 10%? 5%? 2%?

If "disciple-making" disciples are the only measure of success in ministry, how am I doing? How is my church doing? What would I need to start doing differently? What needs to change in how we "do church?"

Or maybe it's just easier to count nickels and noses...