Evaluating the Church

In the non-profit world donors demand increased accountability from the organizations they support. This means that doing good is no longer enough. Donors are less interested activity measures, such as meals served, for a meals on wheels type program, than they are about how the meals had some positive, measurable, long term outcome. For example, donors may want to see if the program attacks a root cause of some community problem. For example, meals may improve overall health and decrease the frequency of emergency medical responses and hospitalizations over the long term.

As a result, non profits have had to come up with program evaluation systems and outcome measures to satisfy their publics. If done well, these nonprofits are able use these systems to become more nimble and responsive to the needs of the people they serve.

This got me to thinking about the church. What outcomes should the church have and how would they be measured? I have heard two lines of thought on this. First, some say that building the church is up to Jesus, not us. We are not in a position to measure or judge how well Jesus is doing so we should not concern ourselves with this. The other view says that we are stewards of what God has given us and He has given us the job of making disciples. Therefore we ought to stop and take a measure of how we are doing from time to time. I like the latter view.

Penetrating lostness or saturating the area with the gospel the general theme of the Long’s Peak Baptist Association in Colorado. There is a lot to this idea but in the simplest form it is making people aware of the Christian world view, sharing the gospel, and winning people to Christ. To evaluate effectiveness a community survey might measure:

  1. The number of new believers in the city. It seems we should expect new believers to increase as a result of LPBA efforts.
  2. How many people in the city, compared to the total population, actually know what the gospel message is?
  3. How many people have heard the gospel as a result of LPBA efforts?

I suppose the mathematically inclined could use measures like these to come up with a sort of composite lostness index. Once a baseline is established, the Church could design a strategy or intervention plan and use the same measure later to see if the actions taken had an effect on lostness. If the Church had ways to take measures of how things are, redesign their ministry, and see the impact of the change quickly, then the Church would be in a better position to have impact.

I am pretty sure that many would say this is wrong headed thinking but I would like to be able to see the effect of our ministry efforts. It could make the difference between meaningless activity with uncertain value and doing things things that carry on into eternity.