Many ministries struggle with measuring their mission success. Which of a myriad of possible measurements are most helpful in determining progress towards mission accomplishment? Can you even measure intangibles such as someone’s journey towards Christ? Of all Christian ministries, I think churches find it hardest to measure what really matters, so here’s some help for them. Of course, the same principles apply to all other Christian ministries too.

I recently read  The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors by Shawn Lovejoy. His urgent cause is to get pastors away from the three Cs of unhealthy measurement: comparing, copying, and condemning, because they are based on the wrong definition of success. We’re not trying to prove ourselves better than another church, or to copy and become another church or to put down another church by, say, attributing their success to a watering down of the Gospel. We are all trying to be faithful to the way God wants us to live and work and to the  mission he has given us. Given that noble calling, Lovejoy quickly knocks down the idols of bigness, numbers, fame and so forth that many pastors unintentionally serve.

Measurements Must Measure Mission, Values, and Strategy

One of the best questions I’ve come up with to help me decide what to measure is, How will the answer matter? What will we do differently depending on the answer? If the answer is nothing, or nothing significant, then find something better to measure. Did people enjoy the sermon or the worship? Good, but does that really matter? The real issue based on the mission of the church is, Did they change an attitude, have a new insight, or make a decision as a result of the sermon or worship? Will anything change in their life?

So don’t measure the unimportant things. Look for the important things, things that will cause you to make significant changes based on the answer. Important things are directly related to your:

  • Mission: The purpose you are trying to fulfill
  • Values: The non-negotiable values you will abide by while operating your ministry
  • Strategies: The key initiatives for accomplishing the mission

Mission, values and strategy are important. Focus on them and measure how you are doing in each of them. That is what will move your church forward.

Numbers Don’t Count, Percentages Do!

The Great Commission is all about conversion and discipleship. One measurement that Lovejoy promotes is the number of baptisms in a year compared to the average number of worship attendees. That gives a percentage, so big churches and small churches are on a level playing field. As Lovejoy says, “You don’t have to be big to be successful.” He’s not interested in the size of the congregation but in the rate of conversion growth.

He does the same thing for discipleship. He measures the percentage of worship attendees who are “active in biblical community, meaning small groups of people who are connecting together with God, doing life with and serving each other, and reaching out to people outside the community of believers.” Small groups are a key component of discipleship.


The bulk of Lovejoy’s book is actually aimed at helping pastors find their self-worth and security in who they are, rather than in the churches they lead. Pastors would do well to consider his advice relating to their own personal vitality, their relationship with their ministry team, and how to keep going when you feel like quitting.

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Other Metrics for Churches

Lovejoy says that we need to take the Great Commandment seriously, to love one another, and to focus on the fruit of our ministries. He doesn’t actually develop a metric in this area, but since pastors are given to the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of service (Eph 4:12), then another measurement would be the percentage of worship attendees who are involved in volunteer service in the church or elsewhere, or who have an active, personal ministry of showing love to other people. Here, I’m thinking of a widow in my church who for thirty years has made it her personal ministry to serve other widows in our church. It’s not a program, it is a purely personal effort on her part to be Christ to her widow ‘neighbours’. The point of this metric is, are people doing something with their faith (James 2:14-18)?

If you want conversion growth, you must have people involved with your church who don’t yet know Christ. They could be attending worship, a small group, or a regular participant in one of your ministries. Find out how many people your church has a relationship with who aren’t yet believers. The higher the percentage of total people your church touches to your worship attendance, the more opportunities you have for conversion growth.

If your church is going to grow and multiply, you need lay leaders for small groups and other needs. What percentage of your worship attendance are either currently ministry leaders or being developed to become a ministry leader?

In the end, it is not about numbers, but about results. Paul put it quite well when he wrote to Timothy, “As for you…fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5 – ESV)

“Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now at your favourite bookseller.”

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