Measuring Ministry Progress in Your Church, Part 1: Introduction

Several years ago my wife and I visited Canada, to see my sister and brother-in-law. While in Vancouver, we walked up the infamous Grouse Mountain. Here’s how the walk is described:

“The Grouse Grind is a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly referred to as ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.’   This trail is very challenging. Keep in mind that there is a wide range of mountaintop trails that might better suit the average hiker.”

As far as short hikes go, this one is indeed challenging – every step of the way is a vertical step – there’s no flat! As the fog set in and my unfit-excuses-for-legs started to strain, I remember thinking “How much longer to go? Are we making any progress?”. And just when I was doubting, we’d come across progress markers like this:

trail marker

These markers were just the encouragement we needed, and the cause for celebration as step-by-step we progressed towards the finish line.

1.5 hours later we crossed the finish line as the snow started to fall – it was a sweet feeling to have got to the end and then celebrate with lunch by the fire, as the blizzard commenced outside!

Measurements help us to see our progress towards a destination.

We make these kinds of measurements all the time:

  • Is all this effort I am putting into healthy eating and exercise helping me lose weight?
  • Is the extra study I am doing helping me to have better conversational Japanese?
  • Am I any closer to my goal of saving for a deposit for a house?

When there’s no clear destination, and/or when this is combined with a lack of progress markers along the way, it can be very frustrating – in life, and also in ministry.

As Andy Stanley explains:

It is impossible to know if you are making progress if you are not clear about your destination…If you give good people a clear goal, then most of the time they’ll work like dogs to get there. But if the goal is unclear, they’re forced to guess or, worse, decide for themselves what a win really is.

But apart from the risk of frustrating and discouraging people, there are other good reasons to measure progress in ministry. Here’s 5 – I’m sure you can think of more, and I invite you to share them in the comments and as the series progresses.

1. To evaluate if our church activities are actually helping people to mature.

Willow Creek asked this hard question:

Are all the things that we do here at Willow Creek that these people so generously support really helping them become fully devoted followers of Christ—which is our mission—or are we just giving them a nice place to go to church?

It was a question that sparked a lot of soul-searching and prompted some fascinating research.

Activity isn’t necessarily progress. Busyness isn’t necessarily fruitfulness.

But you need to know where you’re progressing in order to evaluate the activity.

Andy Stanley again:

The tendency in business, or in church work for that matter, is to mistake activity for progress. We think that just because people are busy and doing a lot of stuff that we are being successful. The fact of the matter is, if all that activity isn’t taking you where you want to go, then it’s just wasted time.

2. To evaluate how faithfully we’re stewarding the limited resources God has given us.

We don’t have endless resources, and we’re accountable to God for how we use the money, gifts, time and energy he’s given us.

To pour hundreds or thousands of dollars into a ministry may be a great demonstration of faithfulness and trust in God.

Or it could be just unwise and reckless.

Taking measurements, praying hard, and asking hard questions might bring about some realisations:

3. To clarify why we’re doing something.

It’s very easy to lose sight of the purpose of a ministry of program. Why did we start this?

Until you have an objective, every idea is a good idea. If it’s not achieving the goal you set out for it, then it’s time to rethink it.

If the playgroup was started to share the gospel with mothers from the community and this isn’t happening – something needs to change.

4. To give thanks to God for his goodness and kindness.

God is the one who gives growth, and by measuring the growth that God gives, we can give Him the glory for his work amongst us.

The measurements allow us to extend beyond a general “Thanks for the growth” to “Thank you for the 3 people who completed Christianity Explored this year”.

5. To help us pray.

Not only do measurements provide meat on the bones for our thanks to God, they help us to pray.

  • Pray for more unbelievers to come to church.
  • Pray for more members to be sharing their faith.
  • Pray for giving to increase so that more mission partners can be supported.

The purpose of this series

I’ve been asking a lot of ministers how they measure their ministry progress, and while nearly all agree that measuring is a good idea, most are still thinking through how to do it (and lots of very helpful ideas have been graciously shared).

Do we measure attendance? Giving? People in small groups? How can you measure spiritual growth (I think there are ways!).

The subsequent posts in this series will explore the measurements we might use for evaluating ministry progress in the local church.

Keeping in mind it’s not about us, and it’s all about Jesus. May many more people come to know him. May we never boast in anything but the cross of Christ.

I pray this series will be helpful for you.

Read Part 2 here.

Read more from Steve here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Kryger

Steve Kryger

I don’t deserve it, but I’ve been redeemed by Jesus. I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for all God has done for me, and it’s my privilege to serve Him. I am the Executive Pastor at Church by the Bridge in Kirribilli, Australia. Prior to serving at Church by the Bridge, I worked as a marketing manager in Canberra, as well as a social media specialist.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
— Robby
 
It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

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