My denomination still requires churches to submit statistical reports. Chances are that your denomination requires this too and if your congregation is non-denominational, somebody’s still keeping track of membership, worship attendance, and financial contributions.
This doesn’t always make sense in the 21st Century Church. For one thing, statistics do not describe impact. (And we are not making an impact we are missing the point of the Gospel.)
First Church on the Hill might have 1000 members on the rolls and an average of 400 in worship. But they might have less impact than Little Church on the Corner with 100 on the rolls, 50 in worship, and a community dinner program where 200 gather every Friday night.
- Imagine a church that has less than 50 on the membership rolls but they provide free vegetables to school children who live in an urban food desert.
- Imagine a church with “only” 120 members who tutor 300 children after school every day.
- Imagine a church with 150 members who have provided a free computer training program to over 1000 low income neighbors.
I know all those churches. They really exist and their impact far surpasses their statistical impressiveness – or lack thereof.
So how do we measure impact? Increasingly, I measure impact (and – in turn – church vitality) through the stories that come out of that church. I’m not talking about data stories – although that’s a really cool field. You start with data and create a narrative that tells a story.
I’m talking about spiritual transformation stories. You start with resurrection and track back to how that happened.
What story from your congregation’s ministry could you tell about . . .
- The transformation of a community from brokenness to wholeness?
- The shift from congregational anxiety to trust in God?
- The movement from being a person who was paralyzed with grief to a person who could minister to someone paralyzed with grief?
- The change from fear to faith?
- The evolution of a person tormented by shame to a person who has forgiven herself?
- The creation of a vibrant church from a dead church?
- The movement from a racially segregated corner of the city to an authentically partnered people?
If we cannot tell these stories is it because we have no such stories to tell? Or is it because we don’t know how to articulate them?
Statistics tell stories. But we are more inspired by stories of impact and growth. And who doesn’t prefer to be inspired?