Measuring ministry impact with numbers is biblical.
The book of Acts uses numbers to describe the impact of the gospel — about 3,000 baptized (Acts 2:41), about 5,000 believers (Acts 4:4), crowds coming to faith (Acts 5:14). We have a whole book in the Bible called Numbers. So, in the context of the church, it is good to measure things like attendance, baptisms, membership, number of small groups, and financial giving.
The problem comes when that is all we measure.
Measuring deep, beneath the surface transformation in people’s lives is also critically important – if not more important. (Consider Paul, Gal. 4:19, Jesus mentoring the 12). The specifics of these internal markers will differ from ministry to ministry and from context to context.
The following are several examples we set to measure at New Life Fellowship Church:
- Each leader at New Life will develop his or her relationship with God by spending ten to thirty minutes in prayer and Scripture reading in the morning, and a few additional minutes of prayer and reflection in the afternoon/evening.
- Our staff, board, and key leaders will slow down their lives by practicing Sabbath for twenty-four hours each week.
- Our staff, board, and key leaders will pray the Examen at least once a day in order to discern and follow God’s will in their lives.
- Every member of our pastoral and administrative staff team will consistently seek to integrate emotionally healthy skills into their ministries and relationships.
- Each member at New Life will develop a personal Rule of Life that enables them to receive and give the love of God. They will share it at their membership interview.
- Eighty-five percent of our members will connect in a small group or ministry (i.e. a smaller community) for support as part of their spiritual formation.
- Every child will participate in a discipleship small group with an appointed leader.
- Fifty percent of married couples will go through training to view their relationship as a living sign of God’s passionate love for the world.
Some of these are fairly easy to measure, but others have proven to be more difficult. Yet, even when the measurement is fairly straightforward, it is vitally important to humbly acknowledge our limits in “measuring” a person’s transformation into the image of Jesus.
But one thing is sure. Every one of us must wrestle with our teams and do the painstaking discernment work of identifying precisely what those internal markers of success are for us at any given point in time.