One of the realities of our lives of service is that people want to see measurable results. Ministries, like businesses, in our societies are largely results oriented. Donors, leaders, management, and others want to be able to measure our effectiveness and feel the need to identify the results of our service. Sometimes that is wise, and sometimes that is foolish, crass, and manipulative. I believe the difference is made in what we measure, and why.
The most often measured item in ministry is attendance. I believe that it is reasonable and wise to measure attendance at events. We can recognized trends, adjust strategies, analyze effectiveness, often by observing attendance. If we think greater attendance equals more effective ministry, we may be gravely mistaken. Sometimes ministry is better delivered in small groups or on an individual basis.
Many ministries measure finances very closely. This can also be wise and proper. To accomplish our ministry purposes, it will certainly require funds to pay expenses, to provide staff, to promote events, etc.… If finances become the measuring stick by which we evaluate all ministry, we may fall into terrible error. Further, if we mold all our ministry initiatives so as to impress donors as their highest value, we may become terribly foolish.
Many ministries in the evangelical world regularly measure conversions to Christ. This is a bit problematic for many of us. To say with certainty that a person has made a commitment to Christ Jesus that will endure is difficult if not impossible for us. One could count the number of respondents to an altar call or invitation to receive Jesus, but to count all of those as life-long disciples would be foolish. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association estimates that only 10% of those answering an altar call at their events turn out to be committed followers of Christ. I sincerely doubt that our similar methods in sports ministry produce a higher rate.
Much of the evangelical world uses the verb, “Reached,” to report results. We will say, “We reached 400 people at this event.” My question is, “How do we know when someone is reached?” Does that mean the person heard a message? Does that mean the person attended an event? Does that mean that person made a profession of faith? What is it to reach someone? I have been asking this question for years, but have never received a satisfactory answer. I would prefer we count and report with greater clarity.
Are we to measure only attendance? Should we value activity as an end in itself? Can we faithfully measure and report conversions to faith in Christ? How does one measure faithfulness? Is there a way to measure long-term ministry results, rather than short-term, immediate results?
I wish I had easy and conclusive answers to all these questions. I have chosen to measure and to report matters which I can state with certainty, such as these:
· I can count the number of people who attend ministry events. That is easily discerned.
· I can count the number of ministry encounters I have. X number of conversations. Y number of presentations. Z number of chapel talks, Bible studies, etc.
· I can count the number of groups we have formed and developed. X number of FCA Huddles. Y number of Team Bible studies. Z number of Coaches Bible study groups, etc.
· I can count the number of boxes checked on a comment card related to decisions made. I cannot faithfully say all of those who checked boxes made life transforming decisions to follow Christ.
· I cannot count the number of people “reached,” simply because the term is too vague.
In summary, I would simply challenge you to prayerfully consider what you measure and report, and why you do so. Who is it you are trying to impress with your glowing report of ministry success? Why are we compelled to report ministry results as if they were reports to a stockholders’ meeting? Let’s aim at faithfulness and rejoice if we also encounter numerical success.