Every church planter is acquainted with the measurements required in reports by the project sponsors, partners, donors, investors, and overseers. These measurements need to be both quantitative and qualitative (typically and shortsightedly, the former trumps the later).
- What was the average weekly attendance for the month and YTD?
- How many small groups or missional communities are functioning?
- What is the count on the number group leaders and apprentices?
- How is family life changing for single parents whose children are in the new church’s after-school tutoring program?
- How is the mental and emotional outlook of the people at the homeless shelter with whom the new church members work side-by-side in community service efforts? How are the members’ lives changing?
- Etc. Etc.
Accountability requires accurate counting and timely reporting. Quality stewardship of resources – often in slim supply in new church ventures – demands wise and careful measuring. Determining what goals to set … which initiatives to retire … what “hills to charge” … or which “envelopes to push” … requires a clear, honest assessment of both present reality and future possibility. A planter cannot do a helpful environmental scan to detect incoming threats and opportunities without a sense of what warrants alertness.
When I was a young kid living on the local Little League fields in northeastern Ohio, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians was one of my heroes. Feller pitched from 1936 through 1956 except for a four-year tour of duty in the Navy during WW2. He was a Hall of Fame inductee in 1962 on the first ballot. Ted Williams called him “the fastest and best pitcher I ever saw in my career.” My grandfather – like many rabid Indians’ fans – used to call him “the heater from Van Meter” (Feller was born in Van Meter, Iowa). I remember hearing others call him “bullet Bob.”
In Chicago’s Lincoln Park in 1940, some group decided to measure the speed of Feller’s fastball. A Chicago police office and his Harley-Davidson sped past Feller at 86 miles per hour as “the heater from Van Meter” began his windup. The race was on to see whether the pitch or the motorcycle would reach home plate first. The “pea” won by three feet. The official clockers calculated that Feller’s fastball traveled somewhere between 98.6 and 104 mph.
Fast forward 73 years. How are fastballs clocked in MLB parks and even at high school baseball practices these days?
Don’t use a motorcycle to measure the effectiveness of a new church ministry when you should be using a radar gun. Quantitative measurements will always have their place, but qualitative measures when carried out thoughtfully, carefully, and regularly can bring the greatest richness to the assessment table.