Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Changing the scorecard of the church

I just finished reading Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal. I took Reggie for a D.Min. class at Fuller, and Becki and I heard him speak at a minister spouse retreat. He is very in tune with both the religious and the non-religious world, and I give him credit for inspiring me in a lot of the missional concepts that I've sought to make a reality. He gives practical, usable insights, and in person, he is a very witty guy.

A lot of this material he has shared in his seminars and in the excellent DVD series, The Present-Future. However, this book is an excellent book to hand to church leaders to help them see the practical application of what it means to be missional.

In this work he makes the point that whatever gets counted gets rewarded, and what has been counted in the past has often not been missional nor particularly spiritual. Instead, they have been institutional markers. Some obvious examples:

  • Numbers in worship - Unless these are differentiated by members and non-members, these are really just church growth stats (which do have their place)
  • Numbers in Bible class - This number by itself tells us nothing about whether people are growing spiritually. We assume that knowledge = transformation, and this is a false assumption. Again, this is an institutional measurement.

These numbers could double, triple in 5 years, and yet the numbers might only be people moving into an area. This perhaps might indicate church health, but these numbers alone say very little about whether or not a church is fulfilling its mission.

I have always sought to put in good counting systems in the churches at which I have served. I like to know these numbers so that I can gauge progress. There is nothing wrong with these numbers; however, they need to be but one set among many.

If mission from outreach and service to the community is fundamental to what the church is, then these numbers must be counted. Otherwise, the old scoring system might be merciless. For instance, if a church releases its members on Sunday or Wednesday night to serve people in the community and build up relationships, then Bible class numbers will take a hit. So those serving outside of the church building walls need to be counted in some way. And they need to be tracked, and celebrated when they rise. Concern should be raised when they drop--just like other numbers.

Other things we might record related to mission:

  • People prayed for in the community
  • Number of people fed, clothed, from the community
  • Number of community groups meeting in the church building
  • Number of baptisms from the community
  • Number of new outreaches begun & number of participants
  • Number of spiritual conversations at work
  • Number of people going on short term mission trips
  • Number of people in evangelistic Bible studies

These kind of celebrations can help us keep other numbers in perspective. If Bible class attendance increases, does it really matter if people's lives do not change and we do not reach or serve people in the world?

Buy Reggie's book and give it to your church leaders!

What other kinds of of measurements could we make related to outreach and service?


Anonymous said...

It isn't our duty to measure. It is our duty to simply plant the seed (teach/spread the Good News). God gives the increase in the right time.

Sometimes the "soil" isn't ready. Sometimes outside influences alter the conditions or delay germination of the seed/word that is planted. (read Luke 8 or Mark 4)

And as in nature, some seeds take longer to geminate and some plants are slower growing than others.

I don't think we are ever instructed to measure results; we are only told to spread the Word.