Measuring Ministry Progress in Your Church, Part 4: Gospel Articulation

Last week when I wheeled my son in his pram, down our steep driveway, I was super careful. I wasn’t taking any chances – I had precious cargo and I would do everything in my power to concentrate and carefully bring him down the hill.

We ought to treat the gospel like precious cargo. With God’s help it must be guarded, and passed down, entirely unchanged, from one generation to the next.

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:14

Sadly, as Philip Jensen has explained, the gospel can be all too easily lost. He explains how this often happens in a 4-generation process:

  1. The gospel is accepted.
  2. The gospel is assumed.
  3. The gospel is confused.
  4. The gospel is lost.

“The generation that assumes the gospel is the generation most responsible for the loss of the gospel”.

It’s too easy to assume the gospel – to assume that people know the gospel, to assume that when you encourage people to ‘share the gospel with your friends’ that people know what it is and can explain it to others. It’s too easy to assume that they have believed it for themselves.

The gospel is too precious and powerful to simply be assumed. This is why measuring gospel articulation is so important, and an important indicator of church health. Let me explain.

The importance of gospel articulation

Being able to articulate the gospel demonstrates 2 important things:

  1. You know the gospel. This doesn’t mean you’re saved necessarily, but it does mean that you know everything necessary in order to be saved.
  2. You are able to explain the gospel to others. Again, this is meaningless (and dangerous) if you haven’t accepted the gospel. But if people have accepted the gospel, and can also explain the gospel, they are powerfully equipped to do their role (and let the Holy Spirit do His) in bringing dead people to life.

How to measure gospel articulation

I think it would be very beneficial to meet up with members of your church, and ask them the question:

“What is the gospel?”

While there’s no ‘right answer’, there are core elements that must be included for the gospel to be the gospel. If these are missing, or if extra elements are added, you are able to care for these people, and help them to have a clear understanding of the

The benefits of measuring gospel articulation

I think having a better understanding of how many people in the church can articulate the gospel is helpful in a number of ways:

  1. It helps pastors get a better sense of who is unconverted. Not a perfect sense, but a better sense. On this topic, Mark Dever’s talk ‘False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church‘ is essential listening.
  2. It helps pastors know who might be serving in order to get God’s love (not in response to God’s love).
  3. It helps pastors avoid challenging people to live in response to the gospel, who don’t yet get the gospel.
  4. It stops pastors encouraging or enabling evangelism by unbelievers.
  5. It enables pastors to encourage people who don’t know the gospel, to explore it further.

Wise words from Spurgeon:

“Do not number your fishes before they are broiled; nor count your converts before you have tested and tried them. This process may make your work somewhat slow; but then, brethren, it will be sure. Do your work steadily and well, so that those who come after you may not have to say that it was far more trouble to them to clear the church of those who ought never to have been admitted than it was to you to admit them.”

If you’d like to equip people in your church to know and share the gospel, allow me to recommend the best book I’ve read on evangelism.

Read previous posts in this series: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

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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Measuring Ministry Progress in Your Church, Part 3: Small Groups

5 useful measurements for Bible study group involvement.

In a prior post we explored the first measure of ministry progress: attendance. We looked at 5 measurements related to church attendance.

Another relatively simple measurement to make is involvement in Bible study (or whatever your church calls it) groups.

As I speak with pastors, I’ve discovered this is as common a measure as attendance, and it’s an important measure. As one pastor explained about his church:

[This is an indicator that] people aren’t simply using the church but wanting to partner in the Gospel and do community with other Christians.

Why do groups exist?

As the pastor above has done, identifying why these groups exist is essential.

Let me illustrate it with an example. Why does a soccer team have mid-week training?

  • Is it to build relationships?
  • Is it to have a fun activity on a Wednesday night?
  • Is it to get fit?
  • Is it to develop better ball skills?

Training will most likely accomplish these things, but the goal of training is to be prepared to win the match on Saturday afternoon. If training doesn’t meet this purpose, something needs to change. If people are becoming great friends, but this comes at the expense of preparation for the game, training hasn’t achieved what it exists to do.

I believe it’s very important to clarify what the purpose of the groups are, and ensure they are meeting this purpose, and include this with other measurements about group numbers and attendance.

Without this clarity, improving your effectiveness at multiplying groups and increasing the number of groups could actually work against what your church is striving to achieve.

Without a direction, running faster in the wrong direction will just get you to the wrong place, sooner.

At Church by the Bridge, the purpose of our Connect Groups is maturity. What is the purpose of these groups at your church?

3 cautions about measuring Bible study group involvement

As with measuring attendance, the most basic measurements – number of groups, and number of people in groups, simply aren’t enough enough.  Here’s why.

  1. People can sign-up for a group, but not attend. You can have 60% (or higher) of your church signed up, but signing up is the easy part. Attending is where the rubber hits the road. In a friend’s group last year, 2 of the people who signed up for the group never turned up throughout the entire year.
  2. Attendance can drop. You can have high attendance at the start of the year, but it can drop as the year progresses. If this happens, it’s worth asking the question – why? Perhaps the groups are getting so large that people don’t feel they are able to contribute, or feel uncomfortable sharing with new people in the group each week.
  3. The groups may not be achieving their purpose. This is my point above. Lots of people in lots of groups that aren’t helping people to mature/the church to be united/people to confess their sins/new people to explore church life – whatever the purpose is – is in fact, not helpful.

5 useful measurements for Bible study group involvement

I believe there are several steps necessary before jumping into the measurements.

Step 1. Identify the purpose of the groups. Why do they exist?

Step 2. Identify how progress towards this goal (e.g. maturity) will be measured. I think this is by far the trickiest part of the process.

Step 3. Then, keep track of the following measurements:

  • Measurement #1. The number of small groups per adult members.
  • Measurement #2. The % of adult members who have signed up for a group.
  • Measurement #3. The frequency of attendance of members. As with attendance, it’s important to know not just who has signed a form, but who is actually going along to their group.
  • Measurement #4. The attendance of leaders to training and discipleship events. This will look different in every church, but involves measures such as attending leadership training events, meeting regularly with the small groups pastor, etc. If the leaders aren’t well connected to the church’s purposes, the groups can easily get off-track.
  • Measurement #5.  This is optional, and links back to the purpose of the group. If groups are an entry point for unbelievers (e.g. a place where church members are encouraged to invite their friends to), you could track how many unbelievers are joining groups. Depending on the purpose of your groups, this 5th measurement can be adjusted.

Tools for measuring progress

If you’re going to get serious about measurement, you’ll need tools that help you to track how you’re progress. Most church databases will enable you to keep a roll of attendance – at church and in groups. We use Elvanto, but there are many other helpful solutions out there (here’s a series that explores how to select a church member database).

Read Part 1 of this series here.

Read Part 2 of this series here.

Read more from Tim 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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Measuring Ministry Progress in Your Church, Part 2: Attendance

Numbers matter to God, because people matter to God.

 

In a previous post I introduced the importance of measuring progress in ministry. Today we look at the measurement of attendance.

Measuring weekly attendance at church is the perhaps the easiest measurement to make, because it’s as easy as doing a head count.

From week to week, you can see if more or less people are coming to church, and compare these numbers over time.

Although there is a reluctance in some circles to talk about attendance numbers, more people coming to church and hearing the gospel is a good thing. (Perhaps this speaks more to the Australian culture than other cultures, but a church that is growing doesn’t feel to be ashamed, nor do others need to assume that a church that is growing has compromised and ceased preaching the gospel).

As Perry Noble explains:

“Every number has a name, every name has a story, every story matters to God.”

Numbers matter to God, because people matter to God. You only need to look at the parable of the lost sheep to see that individuals matter to God (and particularly those who are lost).

Of course, small attendance in and of itself doesn’t indicate a problem. Likewise, declining attending church doesn’t necessarily raise alarm bells – perhaps you’re preaching the gospel more clearly and it’s offending people and they’re leaving.

Why aren’t more people coming to church?

However, if fewer people are coming to church, it’s worth asking the question – why?

  • Has the church stopped praying for growth and for people to be saved?
  • Have people stopped inviting their friends?
  • Is the preacher getting lazy and preparing poorly?
  • Is the preaching addressing only a certain group of people (I recall a pastor at a previous church who only gave illustrations about his children – not great when the majority of the church were teenagers!).
  • Is the church building so full that people don’t think there’s room for them?.

There are good questions to ask when attendance starts to decline.

3 reasons to be cautious about increased attendance

On the flip side, increasing numbers in attendance need to be viewed with caution for at least 3 reasons:

  1. Transfer growth. Church attendance can increase as Christians migrate from another church. There are good reasons for church migration (moved to the area, no kids ministry in their church, etc.), but if this is the primary reason a church is growing, it’s not healthy. At the heart of church growth should be new people (the unchurched and the dechurched) coming to hear the good news about Jesus. An increase in attendance because of transfer growth isn’t necessarily a reason to celebrate.
  2. Back door departures. The number of people in attendance needs to be considered along with the number of people leaving. If attendance levels are high, but there is also a large number of people leaving the church, the church is obviously attracting new people, but failing to keep them (or attracting at the expense of longer-term members). In this case, an increase in attendance isn’t necessarily a reason to celebrate either, if the back door is just as wide as the front door.
  3. Frequency of attendance. Similar to the point above, attendance levels can be increasing if lots of new people are coming, but this must be considered along with the frequency with which members are attending church. On average, are members coming more regularly – 2 out of 4 Sundays, 3 out of 4 Sundays, or even 4 out of 4 Sundays? Or are they attending less frequently? High attendance from newcomers can mask a problem of members not being committed to church.

That said, attendance is a great starting measurement, and one that every pastor I have spoken with is using. I suggest breaking down this measure into the following:

  • Measurement #1. The number of adults and children at church this weekend.
  • Measurement #2.  The number of adults and children who attended church this weekend, who aren’t currently attending another church.
  • Measurement #3. The frequency of attendance of members (how many Sundays in a month the average member is at church). To measure this, you need to be using a church member database that enables you to mark the ‘roll’ each week. We use Elvanto at Church by the Bridge.
  • Measurement #4. The number of people who were attending, but aren’t any more (i.e. have been officially removed from the church roll).
  • Measurement #5. The number of unidentified regular attenders. This is helpful for putting on the agenda follow up of people who have been coming for a while, but who are unknown and not yet connected.

Reviewing these numbers over time is more helpful than comparing from week to week. Like political polls, the numbers go up and down, but its the trends over time that are worth looking at.

As Al Stewart explains:

“You don’t grow week to week, you grow year by year…comparing the same months of different years, will give you a proper picture of what is happening”.

Read Part 1 of this series 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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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
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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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Valarie — 01/25/15 1:58 pm

Thanks so much Steve for your obedience in sharing your gift/knowledge! This has truly blessed me; giving me guidance , examining myself as I move foward in Ministry. May God continue to share His wisdom with you as you warn others of working their ministry in vain. Thanks again, God Bless Man of God!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> […] source: https://www.visionroom.com/leadership-and-the-power-of-listening/ […]
 
— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 
comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.