As I am involved in discussions with pastors and other church leaders, a question that surfaces frequently is “How do you measure success in the church?” Traditionally, we have used the “nickels and noses” (giving and attendance) approach. Some measure their success by baptismal rate and others by the numbers involved in Christian education programs or weekday ministries.
Many leaders are moving beyond these metrics because they do not always reflect what the leaders are really seeking to form—committed followers of Jesus Christ. Several years ago, Willow Creek church commissioned a study that revealed (it was called REVEAL) that the church was not achieving its goal: “Willow Creek exists to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.”Some used this as a basis of criticizing the church and its methodologies. In reality, the church should be praised for being willing to ask the hard question, “Are we really doing what we say we are doing?”
Writers like Will Mancini in Church Unique and Reggie McNeal in Missional Renaissance have pointed out that the old measures no longer apply. The challenge is to find what will take their place. How does one measure spiritual formation and maturity?
In Growing an Engaged Church, Albert Winseman suggests that the answer comes from engaging people in the church. He states that each person wants the answers to these questions: “What do I get?” “ What do I give?” “Do I belong?” and “ How can I grow?” If these questions are answered, members will show gains in life satisfaction, serving, inviting others to become involved, and giving. These are all spiritual outcomes that are measurable.
I am not sure that this is the best or only answer, but if we want to see our people grow, then we must clearly identify our desired outcomes and the methodologies to achieve them. We must be more explicit about what is expected of a follower of Christ and then provide opportunities for people to pursue those things. You can’t hit a target unless you know what it is.