Developing an Assessment Culture that Provides Truth Today and Direction Tomorrow

I hate bad stats. They undermine the credibility of Christians and can confuse the issues. (I’ve written on the issue in Christianity Today.) But when we apply stats wisely, they can be of great benefit.

So while I often say “facts are our friends,” they aren’t always friendly. For example, in 2009, LifeWay Research found that 55% of church attendees believed they had grown spiritually over the last year, while only 3.5% of those displayed any measurable growth. That’s not a very warm and fuzzy stat, but it’s an honest one.

Sometimes, though, churches tend to be more hopeful than honest when they look at their situation. That can be good—we are a people of faith. However, bad information undermines good strategy. I believe that churches must have the right information to make that right decisions.

That takes intellegent self assessment.

When we speak of the need for an assessment culture, we want churches and Christians to avoid making claims that are unsubstantiated. We, above all others, need to be trustworthy, and we can do that with accurate assessment of where we are as individuals and a church.

Churches need honesty as much as they need to have hope.

Assessments are a great way to examine the truth about today and provide a direction for tomorrow. And an assessment culture within a church provides a way forward in thinking about where we are and how to go forward in making disciples.

For so long, churches have claimed success because their focus was on bodies, budgets, and buildings. Other areas, where the picture was not as pretty, were ignored. Creating a true assessment culture is about changing the scorecard. Attention is given to the factors that really lead to biblical growth and transformation within a church across cultural contexts and regardless of the size.

In Transformational Church, Thom Rainer and I examine the research to determine and explain the factors that were common to those churches across the spectrum who were experiencing true transformation. It’s why we developed our Transformational Church Assessment Tool. Instead of targeting areas that had been traditional measuring sticks for discipleship, we evaluated a broad spectrum of churches that were seeing transformation take place. They made disciples. By investigating what was taking place there, we proposed a new scorecard to assess the actual health of a church.

I’m not concerned so much that you use our LifeWay Research assessment tools—though I believe in it because the methods are verified statistically and repeatable in any church setting—I just want you to be engaged in assessing your ministry and doing so in a way that gives you an accurate portrayal of your success or lack thereof.

An assessment culture helps you take a realistic look at what your priority areas should be and evaluate how you are making progress in those. Too often we allow ourselves to slip into a false comfort from anecdotal progress that is not really indicative of what is happening.

I want your church to be transformational, and I know you do as well. We need churches that are being transformed by their dynamic relationship with Christ and, as a result, transforming their members and their surrounding neighborhood. Establishing an assessment culture can help you find and address the areas where you are not seeing that occur as well and as often as it could.

Later in this series on creating an assessment culture, I will be talking about why it is you need it, what are some wrong ways to do it, and two of the factors that must be a part of any church assessment culture.

While “creating an assessment culture” may not sound like the most intriguing topic, I believe it is vital to the health of your church. It enables and empowers you to not just think you are making disciples on a consistent basis, but to know that your church is regularly fulfilling the Great Commission.

Part One of a four-part series. Read part Two here.

Read more from Ed here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Execution >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.