Have you ever judged the effectiveness of your ministry by the size of attendance?
On Easter Sunday, after setting up extra chairs, perhaps you had to pull out even more to accommodate the influx of people. It may have felt good to preach to a full room. Lives were changed and there was a tangible buzz in the air.
By all accounts, that service felt like a win.
But then what happened in the following weeks? Where did all the people go? Did they stick with their faith? Or did everything go back to “normal?”
And if that happened, did you end up feeling like a failure?
The fact is, we can’t help having responses like this.
From report cards and standardized testing scores to gas mileage in our cars and the square footage of our homes, we measure everything—especially what “success” looks like in ministry.
- How many people were baptized last year?
- What is your average weekend attendance?
- How many campuses do you have?
- How many do you have on staff?
- What about your budget?
Those can be great indicators of health. But they don’t measure matters of the heart. And they don’t tell us whether someone in our church is a disciple and whether people are maturing in their faith.
I want to introduce a different way to measure success in discipleship—one that is based on one of the largest studies done to date on discipleship in North America. So let’s dig in.
Measuring discipleship can be a little like measuring other kinds of human endeavors aimed at changing your life—like losing weight or saving money.
There are two factors to keep in mind: input goals and output goals.
Input goals are the behaviors or habits you adopt when trying to make a change.
In weight loss, input goals would be things like counting calories, exercising, or cutting back on fast food. For saving money, they’d be things like bringing your lunch to work or setting a family budget.
We adopt those input goals in order to see some kind of output in the future.
Output goals equal feeling better physically, losing a certain number of pounds, or having a certain amount of money in the bank.
The two are linked; certain kinds of inputs lead to certain kinds of outputs.
Churches often measure success in ministry and whether someone is a mature disciple by using output goals, such as attendance, giving, and serving. But we need to think about input goals as well.