In the Fall issue of “Clarion” (the newsletter of Calvinist Cadet Corps), there is an interesting, two-page article titled “Is it About Numbers?” (Click Here).
In ministry, what is the relationship of measuring numbers and mission/goals?
- Clearly, a ministry organization would be failing if no one attended meetings, no one joined the club, and no one was willing to serve as leaders. Similarly, a ministry with no resources or poorly managed resources would have a much more difficult time accomplishing matters of spiritual worth and significance.
- On the other hand, ministries that become so consumed with “hitting the numbers” that they fail in their efforts of evangelism, disciple-making, etc. have missed the mark, too.
Calvin Cadet Corps, Trail Life USA, Christian Service Brigade, Federation of North American Explorers and others have specific callings to provide a scouting program with a distinctively Christian worldview. Some would argue that I’ve got it backwards — they’re in place to evangelize and disciple boys into strong Christian men through a scouting program.
Either way, the program fulfills an important goal. To assure success, we need to focus (first) on God’s plans and purposes (Proverbs 16:3; Proverbs 16:9; Matthew 6:33; Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 55:11; et.al.), and then on our program’s specific mission. By focusing on mission, we get whatever “numbers” we are going to get. The numbers help us to manage resources, but if we ever substitute hitting artificial numbers instead of core mission fulfillment then we are truly wasting our time.
Consider these verses on the actions of Jesus and his disciples:
- Matthew 9:35-38 (NASB) Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
- Acts 20:20 (KJV) And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly [in group settings], and from house to house
Jesus didn’t simply set up a lonely storefront and wait for people to come to him (although people did seek him out) — he took the disciples on a road trip (and later sent them out in pairs) to reach many people. Jesus also didn’t establish committees to develop marketing plans and number crunching. He was focused on mission first – inspiring action, engagement and growth.
Later, in Acts, not only did they talk to the groups at the temple, but they also went from house to house. They didn’t do this to get a star on a chart about hitting a number goal, but at the same time, the characterization that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few is a clear reference to measuring the scope of opportunity and need.
Any organization needs to be aware of it’s performance numbers/metrics and be ready to adjust its plans accordingly — otherwise it’s not likely to be an effective ministry (as measured by hitting the big picture goal of evangelism, etc.)
Critics of ministry becoming too business-like might say “but don’t we “need not worry”? How about Matthew 6:25-34? If we obsess over numbers aren’t we focusing on the wrong thing? God feeds the birds of the air, right?” Well, if that’s true in a vacuum, why do we also see lessons in Proverbs like 6:6-9 “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.” (making plans with numbers to survive the winter)
Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If our heart is on the right mission first, we’re empowered to pursue the secondary objective of growing the reach of the ministry – “publicly and from house to house”
Clearly we ought to be focused on His “big picture” and to accomplish it we must put honest effort into the plan. Promoting the value of our ministry calling to attract more participants is wise not foolish since we’re doing our best (in genuine sincerity) to fulfill a calling to equip men, mentor boys, help dads meet their calling and so on.
Now, to be more provocative, I wonder whether we are we doing a disservice to our local community if we stand by passively and let:
- boys pursue more worldly programs (sports, et.al.) because they never heard of Brigade, Cadets, Trail Life, Explorers, et.al. and the many benefits of these programs
- churches snub faith-based scouting programs as unnecessarily competitive with their co-ed youth group (when they could be complementary to each other – each fulfilling distinctive missions to an even greater range of participants)
- Christians continue to believe that there’s more value to earning “eagle” than “Herald of Christ”/”Freedom Award” (etc.) since “eagle” may open doors in the business world (but HOC/Freedom can change a boy’s heart and subsequent generations forever, spiritually)
- an incomplete marketing plan (focusing inward on holy huddlers), weak training network (leading to a weak program), or whatever else might keep the ministry from growing and reaching more families —especially those who are not presently church attenders or would characterize themselves as people with no faith affiliation?
Are we pursuing the promotion of the mission both “publicly and from house to house” in our local communities? IF we pursue mission with a genuine, fired-up passion, how would that influence numbers?
What do you think? What is the right balance between keeping score versus focusing on the “big picture” calling of the ministry? How does an organization do both? (can they do both?)