I’ve been really fascinated with a conversation happening between Kevin Watson and John Meunier regarding measuring effectiveness in ministry. Here are the basic premises for the discussion:
- Numerical growth is one way to measure effectiveness and faithfulness.
- Faithfulness and effectiveness do not always result in numerical growth.
- Drawing a crowd is not the same thing as gathering a congregation.
- Sometimes we can substitute winning praise and approval for faithfulness.
- Therefore, how do you measure faithful ministry?
Kevin suggests the means of grace (prayer, searching the scriptures, communion, fasting, and Christian conferencing/community) as a key to discerning whether or not a ministry is both faithful and effective.
On one hand, I totally agree with Kevin. Living the faith is central to my life as a minister. If I am not searching the scriptures daily, meeting weekly with my small group, praying faithfully, etc. then I am not the person I am called to be. When I fail to do these things, I notice more frustration and confusion about the core commitments I have as a Christian and a minister. These practices allow me to know the difference between faithfulness and going through the motions.
However, I think he’s even closer to answering the original question when he mentions trying to be more concrete about what faithful fruit looks like.
Here at Church of the Servant, we have recently started sharing the results of our vision work with the congregation. Included in that work we have a series of “marks of discipleship” that are intended to help us discern whether we’re helping people down the road of discipleship or not. We’re not interested in simply “drawing a crowd.” We want people to actually become disciples.
Here are those marks, which are prefaced with the phrase, “A Servant:”
- worships weekly
- prays daily
- gives faithfully
- loves God’s word
- embodies God’s love through service
- grows through small group relationships
- shares their faith with others
Of course we’re careful with how we teach and share this. These are not the way to establish a relationship with God. That only happens by accepting the grace of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, these are several of the places God has promised to show up and meet his people. These are faithful ways to respond to and grow in God’s grace.
Over time, we will use these marks to determine whether or not we are succeeding at the call God has placed on our lives as a community of faith. It’s one thing to just have more people. It’s another thing altogether to have more and more people falling in love with God’s word, connecting in deeper spiritual relationships, and embodying God’s love through service. While it’s a challenge to measure these things, we can actually count the number of people who are using the resources we provide (bible reading plans, small group involvement, missional participation, etc.) to make educated guesses that they are meeting God in these means of grace.
We’re convinced that can lead to both effective and faithful ministry.