I find myself humming this song as I ask, “How do we measure a year in the life of a church?”
Some would say it’s about numbers. An elder once challenged me (yes, just me – as if church membership was solely my responsibility) to “grow the church by 10% each year.” My response was that I could probably convince people to join the church to make that 10% increase but that I’d rather have 1% new people with a longing to follow Jesus than 10% new people with mere pulses.
Some say it’s about new programs, new ventures. I increasingly balk at churches that congratulate themselves with a long list of programs and mission projects in their annual reports. I would rather serve a church with one single transformational practice than a congregation that offers an array of programs which have become institutional obligations. I would rather serve a church that gives a large, life-changing sum to a single mission than a church that donates a hundred dollars here and two hundred dollars there.
So, I need your help here. If you know of assorted instruments for measuring a year in the life of a church, please share those resources. I hesitate to call these metrics “measures of success” because a successful congregation in God’s eyes often has little to do with worldly success.
What questions would you ask church leaders in order to discern if a congregation is “thriving” spiritually or if a congregation is merely “surviving“?
Here are some off the top of my head:
- Can you identify an occasion in the last year when the congregation chose faith over fear? Tell me about it.
- Is the church living off an endowment or do the tithes and offerings of the congregation cover all expenses?
- Can you name things your congregation tried that failed in the past year? (Note: if you didn’t fail at anything, you probably didn’t try anything new.)
- Can you name ten people who were spiritually transformed in your congregation in the past year? What did that look like?
- Can you identify one person who was identified as a new leader in the past year, and then share how she/he is being equipped for ministry? (Note: this is a person who has never been a leader before in the life of your church.)
- What hymnal does your congregation use regularly? (Note: Maybe you don’t use a hymnal. Or maybe you are using a hymnal published in 1947.) How does music glorify God in your faith community? (As opposed to pleasing your own personal tastes.)
What questions would you add to this list?