I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the right metrics are for determining if Church or faith is “successful”.
As one of my friends reminded me the other day “I don’t think we should be applying KPI’s and business metrics to the Church!” And he’s right, but the reality is we do.
I was reminded of this on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering as he interviewed the former Australian Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes. He commented on the need for targets (as opposed to quotas) for employment of women and disabled workers, stating “If we don’t count things, then they simply don’t count”.
So what is it that we should be counting, to honestly reflect whether church and faith is doing what it’s intended for? What are the things that truly “count” when it comes to counting how successful our faith is?
Traditionally, in the West, we’ve measured attendance, Baptisms and offerings to determine how things are going with a Church. When church leaders get together and talk about their churches, these are most commonly the factors used to compare and contrast. Church attendees are more likely to talk about the kinds of activities the church is involved in or the topics being discussed. And when it relates to our personal spirituality, we traditionally talk about how well we keep a certain bunch of rules.
Yet I can’t seem to find anywhere in the New Testament that seems to indicate that this is how a group of people, gathering together to follow the way of Jesus, should evaluate how they’re going with that. Rather, I see statements indicating that these groups, when successful, will demonstrate kindness and compassion to orphans and widows, and that whatever they do for the least in society, they will be doing to and for Jesus and that they will be known by their love.
What this sounds like to me, is the transformation of society, one life at a time. An intimate engagement between lives. Communities being reshaped by fully engaged neighbours.
I was asked recently by a friend, how I thought our simple church “project” was going, were we “successful”? This year, our little church community has had the birth of a child with a disability, a dramatically broken leg, a broken foot, the death of a father and a mother, the loss of employment, a new business venture, as well as all of the normal dramas of life and families.
In the midst of all of this, while the numbers haven’t changed, and the offerings haven’t gone up (that could be due to the fact that we don’t collect an offering!), I have seen so much love poured out. I have seen meals appear on doorsteps until the freezer can’t contain any more, toilets cleaned and floors mopped, children taken on adventures to create space for parents, room given for tears of travail and grief, and prayers offered up faithfully night after night.
Through all of this, I have also seen a greater and deeper conversation open up around where God can be found amidst this struggle, and a willingness to wrestle with the hard questions of life together.
But perhaps most significantly, I have observed those outside our community drawn into the same conversations. As love has been extended beyond our community to others struggling with similar issues, as our hearts have been stretched, to live more openly and generously.
This I think, is what we need to measure more. It really isn’t size that matters but what we do with our faith that actually counts!
The question is, how do we measure this if we need “to measure things to make them count”?