Measuring a Year in the Life of a Church

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?

6 responses to “Measuring a Year in the Life of a Church

  1. Powerful questions, Jan — Thanks for posting this!


  2. What learning opportunities did you engage this year? Was there good discussion or blanket acceptance of what was written?

    Did you “break bread” with any of your enemies (political, spiritually, family, or neighborly)

    Is your worship service passive engagement?

    What were your best failures?

    Who talks most at your session (or presbytery) meetings…the TE or the RE?


  3. Did your congregation engage in cooperative missional work with another neighboring faith community? How were the participants transformed by that experience?

    What would be your congregation’s reaction to their church building burning to the ground?


  4. These are great questions for a PNC.


  5. I know of a church that doesn’t count visitors or new members, but invitations–that is, how many people have members of the church invited to attend worship or some other event.


  6. Pingback: How do you measure a church? « The Mustard Seed Journal

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