Results Matter in Children’s Ministry
In the business world, results matter. We measure Return on Investment (ROI) to determine if we’ve made sound decisions, and ROI can determine if we continue a business venture. It’s a measurement that helps us determine best practices.
In the church world, faithfulness matters. We work diligently and leave the “fruit” to God. At least, that’s how I’ve experienced the dynamic of measurement in the church world, and for good reasons, to some degree. We are called to faithfulness; results take time—a discouraging amount of time sometimes! And God is the one who bears fruit. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Yes, there are very good reasons to leave results up to God.
But what about the parable of the sower I read in my quiet time yesterday? It seems like results are the goal: a hundredfold results. And then there’s the parable of the talents. The one who’s praised by God is the one who invested it wisely. I’d say there was some ROI measurement going on there! It seems that refusing to measure results in the church can be a bit of a dodge.
In The Speed of Trust, Stephen R. Covey writes “It’s vital to take responsibility for results—not just activities. This approach unleashes creativity. It helps you understand that if you can’t get results one way, you try another way–you don’t just sit there and whine, ‘Well, I did what you told me to do!’ ”
So why not measure results in the church world? In fact, wouldn’t results tell us we’re doing the right things? We don’t have to be afraid of setting goals, planning for those goals, and then measuring those goals in order to learn. It doesn’t mean we just measure numerical growth, but it might mean that the community-building event we planned results in ongoing friendships after the event. It might mean that the outreach event results in a certain percentage of families then assimilating into our church. Those would be interesting outcomes—not just whether 50 people came.
I think results do matter, and I think we all need to do a better job of figuring out how to assess results. It’s tough because spiritual growth is a heart thing. But then again, Jesus said we would know one another by our fruit. Maybe there are things we can observe and measure after all.
For years here at Group, we’ve grappled with the issue of assessment. In fact, we’ve longed for anyone—church, company, individual—to crack this nut. How do you measure spiritual growth results—beyond verses memorized? (So if you know anyone that has figured this out, let me know!)
One passage of Scripture that I love and believe has the essence of what we should be measuring in spiritual growth is in 2 Peter 1:5-8. Verse 8 says “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Hmmm….that sounds like a worthy goal for children’s ministries!
So what are these qualities? Faith, goodness (moral excellence), knowledge, self-control, perseverance (patient endurance), godliness (being like Jesus), brotherly kindness, and love.
I would love to see something that can measure those qualities as indicators of spiritual maturity–at each child’s level. Of course, we all know we may only have children for one hour a week. So all the more reason that an intentional spiritual growth plan at church (with measurement/assessment) must partner with the parents who see these qualities lived out at home. We would partner in “fruit checking.”
I think this is more than possible; I believe it’s doable and necessary. Anyone figured it out so far?