You may have heard this saying before: “What gets measured, gets accomplished.” You might have heard it put another way: “What doesn’t get measured, gets overlooked.” But what if I told you that you might be measuring the wrong things?
Let’s remember the goal of the local church. Jesus’ last words to His disciples before departing were, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Sadly, through the years we have reduced disciplemaking to decisions, baptisms or converts. Even church leaders get confused with the mission.
Joey Bonifacio speaks of this confusion in his book The Lego Principle. In teaching a room full of pastors, he walked them through an exercise to prove his point: “I’m going to say a brand name or a popular trademark. I want you to answer, with only one word, the business the company represents. Are you ready?” He started with an easy one: “Starbucks.” The audience responded, “Coffee.”
Next, he said, “Toyota.” They all chimed in, “Cars.”
“Rolex,” he stated. Again, without hesitation, the pastors replied, “Watches.”
Up to this point, everyone responded immediately. But the final trademark stumped the audience of pastors: “What about the word Church?”
The room was silent. Minds were whirling, “What is the ‘business’ of the church? What is the church’s ‘one word’?”
What would you say?
While there are many potential answers, I would say making disciples should be the response.
ABCs of Church Growth
In churches, we have measured success with the ABCs of church growth: Attendance, Buildings and Cash. All of these may be indicators of growth, but none of them can be changed after the fact. Once attendance is counted, once buildings have been built, once offerings have been gathered, you have what you have. These metrics are what is commonly referred to as lag measures.
A lag measure is the metric that results from something put into place days, months or years ago. The ABCs of church growth are prime examples. When a church falls below budget, it’s the result of something that happened in the past. When attendance is dropping today, it’s the result of something that took place weeks or months ago.
A lead measure, on the other hand, is something we can engage in today that will affect change in the future.
Dave Worlund, who was the president of the National Christian Charity Foundation, oversaw the assets of millions of dollars from Christian philanthropists. He had a meeting with the one of the leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ while they were having trouble with dropping attendance and seeing a decrease in salvations during their weekly meetings. Expecting a quick fix, the leader asked Dave what he should do about it.
Surprisingly, Dave answered with a question: “How many lunches are your leaders having with students every week?” The Campus Crusade leader responded that he had no idea, and asked why that was important.
“When your leaders start having weekly meetings with students, they can build rapport with them, which leads to open doors for Gospel conversations. A Gospel conversation will open the door for an invitation to a weekly gathering, and attendance at a weekly gathering will provide an opportunity to hear the Gospel. Your problem is that you’re gauging lag measures, which you can’t control. What you can control are the lead measures you’re beginning now that will affect change in the future.”
If you are trying to shape your ministry based on gauging lag measures, you will find yourself frustrated. We cannot directly influence budget problems or drops in attendance in any sustainable way overnight.
Instead, focus on what you can change today that will affect your ministry positively in the future. Here are four lead measure drivers you can begin immediately that will reap positive benefits in the weeks, months and years to come:
- Intentional inviting: Every staff person (or volunteer leader) will invite three people to a small group every Sunday before, in between and after worship services.
- Dropout connecting: Every staff person (or volunteer leader) will have one lunch per week with someone who used to attend small group but no longer does.
- Leadership modeling: Every staff person (or volunteer leader) will share a testimony of the impact of a small group in their life with three people every week.
- Responsive follow-up: Our team will respond to 100 percent of “connect card” small group requests within 24 hours.
While these lead measures can seem lofty, you set the goal and gauge as you proceed. Examine your own ministry. Have you been spending most of your time examining lag measures, which are the result of actions from weeks that have past, or lead measures, which can affect change tomorrow? If the church’s primary mission is to make disciples, now is the time to start implementing the changes that will help you carry that mission out for years to come. Cultivating a healthy disciplemaking focus in your church is the lead measure that will help your church—and the Kingdom of God—grow in a way that pleases Him.
This article originally appeared here.