Measure What Matters

“Encouraging people to discover a deeper, stronger connection to Jesus Christ that leads to life at its very best”

That phrase captures the uniqueness of the work God calls us to do at Asbury UMC. It doesn’t give all the details, that’s true, but it does give us a real sense of what we’re about. There is only one real problem with this vision – it’s not easy to measure.

That vision doesn’t automatically lead to an increase in people sitting in the seats on Sunday morning – but we expect it would. That vision doesn’t necessarily coincide with more people serving their neighbors in the community around us – but we believe it should. However, while we believe we will see increases in such easily measurable categories, the measurement of those categories is not the best measurement of the vision.

If we want to measure what matters, and measure what we want to see change, then it’s not attendance and activity that really matters. Measuring those things won’t necessarily indicate a faithfulness and diligence in accomplishing the vision God has given us. I tell people all the time that I can get more people in the door – beer and barbecue. We might even be able to talk people into doing good work around our community. But neither one of those increases says we’re helping people discover a deeper, stronger connection to Jesus Christ.

Here’s what the Apostle Paul says that might give us the things to measure:

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
(Galatians 5:22b-23a)

Now the challenge is how to measure such things. There is only one way I know – be a witness to them. The way we know people are growing is to be connected to people and encourage them to grow in these ways. The only way anyone knows that I am growing deeper and stronger in my connection with Jesus Christ is for me to talk to them about where I am now and ask them to watch my life. It’s another reason our relationship to other believers is so essential.

Measuring what matters is important, but the things God, through Paul, tells us are important cannot be indicated on a year-end report. These are things that cannot be communicated by numerical scales or rankings. Maybe the lesson is that numbers are not always the best things to look at when we measure faithfulness and effectiveness. Numerical counts may have their place but let’s keep them in their place.

That’s my perspective. Do you agree?
Do numbers matter to you?
How would you measure a “deeper, stronger connection with Jesus Christ”?

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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8 responses to “Measure What Matters

  1. I don’t know about anyone else but my “holy ruler” is my heart. I can feel my heart grow as my connection to Christ strengthens. On the other hand, when I am struggling, my heart becomes hardened. The joy a strong connection with Jesus Christ brings is contagious, that is a joy I try to share with anyone who will listen. Thank you for your post Mike.

    • Sharon – I think you are spot on with that. It is a heart issue in so many ways, if not every way. Now the question is put to us as leaders in the church – how do we measure that within our congregation? How do we evaluate whether or not others have a similar work happening in their own life? How do we know that our work to encourage others to a deeper stronger connection is working? I think it only happens as we share our hearts and have friends willing to ask each other.

      Thanks for the comment. Stay contagious, my friend.

  2. Paula Zikogiannis

    I strive to have a deeper connection. I don’t have any answers, but was intrigued by your post. I found and read this article that touches on some of your points; it makes reference to “The Christian Life Profile Assessment Tool”.
    http://www.buildingchurchleaders.com/articles/2000/le-2000-002-10.58.html

  3. I feel like I should say, ‘long time reader; first time poster.’ 🙂

    Mike, this hits my heart. We have some worldly need to measure all we do by the number of people that __________. I struggled with this a LOT in youth ministry and being on the staffs of churches. By struggling with this, I mean that I didn’t worry about it and other people did. Mike Yaconelli was one of my favorite go-to guys for encouragement in areas like this.
    I don’t have many answers but I am glad to read about other people asking the questions.

    • Kristen – I appreciate the “long time reader; first time poster” tag. I’m not sure exactly why, but I was glad you told me 🙂

      Before going into ministry Jan and I served as a youth volunteers. Mike Yaconelli was a name I was coming to know through our youth ministries director and the time they spent at Youth Specialties conferences. I probably read a few articles he wrote as well.

      It’s hard not to look at numbers. The reality is, if people are jumping out the windows or running through the doors it makes a difference. I guess the greater work is not letting it be the most weighty of measurements in ministry. I think you’re right, though, best thing we can do is keep asking the question.

  4. Mike, I think it really doesn’t matter how we “measure” or “count”, what matters is how God measures and counts, and that would be our hearts. I for one don’t like to be the center of attention, or call attention to myself, so I have a more personal/private appoarch to the “fruits of the spirit”. I think that maybe there is more than one way to measure ourselves, do you?

    • Stacy – Thanks for the comment!

      Yes, there are a number of ways to measure ourselves. And yes, what matters is the condition of our heart as seen by God. At the same time, God calls us to be more than just individuals before him. We are a covenant community, a community of faith. Jesus instructions to his followers was “Go and make disciples” – how do we know we are being faithful to that end. I would argue that the historic practice of counting the people in the pews is not the best indicator. In what God calls us to do and who God calls us to be – as individuals and as a church – we will be asked to give an accounting of how we lived our life, as individuals and as part of the church, the Body of Christ. My hope is that we will look at the best things to measure so we can be certain we are being faithful not only to our own hearts but in building up the hearts of others. My concern is that we settle for the easy things to measure and we miss our chance to help people find that deeper, stronger connection to Jesus Christ that leads to life at its very best.

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