Measuring Success in Ministry

UPDATE: I have used this scorecard, along with other thoughts from scripture, to write an ebook on success in ministry. The ebook is available for the kindle only. Reframing Success: Missional Metrics for Ministry Success

SuccessAt my last doctoral class with Len Sweet last week, he posed a question to us that went something like this: Provide for me the metaphors that will describe how we measure success in the church in the future. We are prone to measure success by how man and how much. And we determine who is a great leader by how many and how much.

So today, I want to share with you some of the metaphors we listed (and some I came up with afterwards), of things we can count as a measure of success. But I need to issue a warning. You will have to think about these and you may push back unless you realize the metaphor. So don’t react…Ponder…

  1. The number of cigarette buts in the church parking lot.
  2. The number of adoptions people in the church have made from local foster care.
  3. The number of pictures on the church wall of unwed mothers holding their newborn babies in their arms for the first time.
  4. The number of classes for special needs children and adults
  5. The number of former convicted felons serving in the church
  6. The number of phone calls from community leaders asking the church’s advice
  7. The number of meetings that take place somewhere besides the church building
  8. The number of organizations using the church building
  9. The number of days the pastor doesn’t spend time in the church office but in the community
  10. The number of emergency finance meetings that take place to reroute money to community ministry
  11. The amount of dollars saved by the local schools because the church has painted the walls
  12. The number of people serving in the community during the church’s normal worship hours
  13. The number of non-religious-school professors worshiping with you
  14. The number of people wearing good, free clothes that used to belong to members of the church
  15. The number of times the church band has played family-friendly music in the local coffee shop
  16. The number of people who have gotten better because of free health clinic you operate
  17. The number of people in new jobs thanks to the free job training center you opened
  18. The number of micro-loans given by members in your church
  19. The number of churches your church planted in a 10 mile radius of your own church

Got any more?

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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  • David, I love this different “scorecard.” The only one that immediately comes to mind would deal with the number of hours the church staff (and volunteers) spend ministering to those outside the church.

    I also really like #19, especially in light of the previous post on Ed Young. I have always appreciated the impact of Young’s ministry. I have visited several different aspects/services of the church over the years, but I find his take on the video to be a bit bizarre and utterly ridiculous. As someone else said on another site, when you view the church as a business this is what you end up with.

  • The number of people who spend time on their knees praying in support of all that God is doing

  • I find the list interesting. It true if the the church wants to find itself where there are people in need they have to geo where the people are. Often times, as a “good christian” I find myself judging the very people I am meant to reach. Thank you for this.

  • Wow, amazing points! Thank you for this!

    I think this list is really phenomenal. Imagine if we used it to measure success, I wonder how “successful” most churches would be – probably very little.

  • The list can be summarized with 2 words – “Changed Lives”

    The list reminds us of the markers along the path of changed lives, from start to finish. A healthy church should have people in all stages of change working together on the journey, with the push and pull of spiritual growth…

    – from non-believer to believer
    – from believer to follower
    – from follower to disciple

  • Scott,

    I agree with you, but unpack that for a minute. What we tried to do is move it out of the world of the abstract and into reality. Those are very real, personal, relational aspects of success in ministry.

  • “A healthy church should have people in all stages of change working together on the journey, with the push and pull of spiritual growth…

    – from non-believer to believer
    – from believer to follower
    – from follower to disciple”

    to which I would add:

    – from disciple to discipler

  • I’d like to comment and pushback on two things: #9 above and Eden’s comments

    First, I pastor a small-ish congregation in a small-ish semi-suburban/rural town outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our Sunday gatherings are held in a local school, but we also own a community centre-type building on property near the town centre which is used by several non-church groups. One such is a quasi-governmental, community action group that is working to develop guidelines to guide future development in the town. I serve on this group in several ways. The principle I’m seeking to communicate to our congregation and to the community is that we want to “add value to the community…in Jesus’ name.”

    My “push back” on #9 is simply this: in addition to my opportunity to serve the broader community (and to serve as a model to my congregation), I also have the responsibility to equip people from the Scriptures for the work of ministry and to make certain they are equipped for every good work (2Tim 3:17). Thus, I do spend a good deal of time studying, preparing, writing, praying, pondering…all of which adds up to time in my office (also at our centre). So, to modify #9 (or to create a #9a), I’d suggest “The number of hours the pastor spends in his office to the end that he’s equipping his people as evidenced by the number of people actually mobilized for and engaged in community activities.”

    Since I’m currently teaching through Matthew 28:16-20, I’d ask whether the biblical measurement of success in ministry is the degree to which we live as and make disciples (Jesus’ metrics?). The definition of disciple: one who trusts in Jesus Christ, public declares his/her faith journey, strives after a lifestyle of obedience, invites others to the same journey and relies continually on the empowering presence of Jesus Christ. I would hasten to add that the context for being/making disciples is “out there,” an engagement for which your “signposts of success” are great metrics.

    This also reflects my response to Eden’s comment. There is no “entry level” place in the church, i.e., a believer who (maybe) becomes a follower who becomes a disciple who becomes a discipler. This thinking creates a mindset that it’s somehow okay for a believer NOT to opt for the process described, like a car purchaser who simply opts NOT to get the frilly package of extras. All who trust Christ (according to the usage of the term in the New Testament) are disciples. So, it appears that what we have in the church are two groups: good and healthy disciples of Christ or lousy disciples.

  • Rick,

    I do sermon prep in cafes and restaurants and coffee shops. I do sermon prep where the people are. One fay of the week I spend in commentaries and study, but I have found that I do my best prep when I’m watching and observing people living life. It makes everything very real.

    You said:
    Since I’m currently teaching through Matthew 28:16-20, I’d ask whether the biblical measurement of success in ministry is the degree to which we live as and make disciples (Jesus’ metrics?).

    I would agree with that. I’m trying to move from the abstract (what is a disciple) to the real. These are the what a church of disciples looks like.

    Thanks for your comment. Also, thanks for getting the ebook. You’ll notice some things in there that I believe lead to this kind of missional involvement.

  • I appreciate that simple suggestion, though living in a smaller place like this means basically one option (Tim’s Coffee Shop, a ubiquitous Canadian entity), though that is still very workable. Thanks.

    I agree absolutely with your goal of making the abstract real. I’ll likely be referring to your material (with appropriate attestation) in my own exhortations to the folks here.

  • I’m so glad you’ve stepped out to address this topic. This has become more and more an issue in evangelical circles. The bigger the “this,” the more successful the “that.” God measures success by the state of the heart.

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