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January 22, 2012



Baptism stats, new member stats, how many new people serving in ministry is important stat (huge sign of discipleship making in my opinion),number of new tithers, new leaders stat? We have a 12-Step list (guideline) for our people that shows what steps can be taken from becoming someone far from God to becoming a fully devoted follower. I have many new Christians tell me they are not sure what they should do next and so this guideline gives them direction based on scripture. We also have 101-501 classes but not sure how reliable those attendance stats would be...I think using finance stats and number of people serving is more defining of evidence of discipleship...


We believe that if someone is serving frequently, tithing, attending frequently, inviting their lost friends, and attending a community group they are truly being dicipled. That is our measure of effectiveness. If our people are doing those things well. Then they are becoming more like Christ.

Tim Briggs

First off, great question! I suspect that in the comments we will hear a lot about baptisms, attendance, professions of faith, small group attendance, and the number of people serving. These are good things to track. However, I feel like these are analogous to the standardized stats in baseball (AVG, HR, RBI). If you don't know baseball, these are the stats that "old school" baseball teams used to track success. They are good to measure, but often don't tell the whole story. The failure I see in churches when using stats to measure success is that all the things measured are WITHIN the church (see my list above). We measure those because they are easy to measure and can put numbers to those things. It's much harder to measure things outside the church. For example, what if someone at your church is engaging with their neighbor trying to lead him/her to Christ. They are doing evangelism but you probably don't know about it and that can't be quantified (or at least it's difficult to quantify it).

I say all of this because I think this is the difficulty in using stats--you don't always know them nor are they quantifiable. It would be like trying to evaluate a baseball player but you don't know what he did in 100 of his at-bats. You are only aware of 50 of his at-bats.


I like Tim's comment because it is really hard to use some kind of standard measurement in a situation like this where we are looking for heart change. When we sit down with our youth leadership team, we talk individual names of those in their life groups and how we are helping them in their next step of becoming more like Christ. Since we have a big youth ministry, my husband and I don't know all the names that are brought up personally...but someone does and is making sure that those names count.

So, I think the answer for determining how successful we are being at our mission is really found in a strong leadership culture that is getting their hands messy pastoring people. If real life change stories are coming up the pipeline on a continual basis, then I think you are doing something right. And like Tim said, those stories can be at lots of different stages...from someone who is on the brink of a salvation experience to someone who is being baptized and added to the community.

Dave Ferguson

Thanks for the comments!

First, Linda can I get a copy of your 12-step list? If yes, you can send it to daveferguson@communitychristian.org. Thanks in advance.

Second, I agree with you Tim in that most of the stats that we are using in the church are like looking at a baseball scorecard (AVG, HR, RBI) and not the scoreboard (RUNS). It's the scoreboard that will ultimately tell you if you are winning or not.

Speaking to both Tim and Jamie, I believe we do need "soft" data that is more qualitative than quantitative like story telling, knowing your neighbors, etc. But I would also like to have some "hard" data as well. I don't think there is anything the matter with counting; and in counting it might actually give us some insight into how we are doing in regards to accomplishing the mission that we can't complete get through qualitative data.

I would love to get a more specific answer for this question: what is a good indicator (quantitatively) that someone is becoming more like Jesus.

More thoughts?

Tim Briggs

Dave, I definitely agree with you on the combination of "hard" and "soft" data.

I'm going to email you an evaluation tool we use in our ministry. Our ministry works with churches who have sports ministries and this tool is used to help evaluate their ministry. It's a mixture of "soft" data (subjective ratings, stories) and hard data.

As you'll see, it's designed for sports ministries but much of it can be adapted for the broader church.



We try to organize our dashboard in three categories: 1. Statistics, 2. Stories, 3. Influence.

I have fought against measuring in a kind of resistance to systematic approaches. But, agree with others that we measure what matters.

What we measure is evolving to try to do our best at maturing integrated disciples -
Being/Celebrating/Sharing Good News

1. Baptisms
*Good News is being planted
*Good News is being watered
*Good News is being nurtured

2. People Who Are Baptizing
*Know Good News
*Take Good News
*Share Good News

3. Attendance at Everything
*If we resource and staff it, it should be worth people’s time
*Every sponsored activity should include being/celebrating/sharing good news.

4. Leadership
*Numbers in Freshman Leadership Community (all freshman invited)
*Total Number of Leadership Community (all leaders 1st – 4th year)

5. Influence
*Good News motivated events/programs/groups (these can have various life-cycles, but new things should be popping up all of the time).
*Not sponsored by us, but emerging from our people

6. Graduates on Mission
*Total Number of Graduates
*Graduates (self-identified thru interview) choosing their vocation with a Kingdom vision
*Graduates (self-identified thru interview) choosing their location with a Kingdom vision
*Graduates who make a transition into a local church/community of faith

Jon Stolpe

The two stats that should matter the most are baptism stats and attendance stats. If a church is effective in the great commission it will be baptizing people all the time (this is the first part of the great commission). Second, the church should be growing. If newly baptized people are growing in their faith and in their followership of Christ, they will be inviting new people to church.

Stretch Mark

Challenging thing, running a church … I would imagine. Of course attendance matters, and if a church’s mission is to bring people to Christ, then baptisms are a certainly a quantitative way to do so. I wonder what happens to that number after people go into the water? How many folks have slid back post-emersion? Is there a way for a church to track the percentage of folks that are baptized there that are still attending the church? And if not, are they attending a different church or have they fallen back? That may help clarify in some way.

As for how we judge someone’s heart, I don’t believe that to be easy. The sinful creatures that we are, we often say and do things that show that which we wish to project. We only know what is in our own hearts, a focus we must keep.

- Stretch Mark


I get what you are saying.

So, I think that in order to get a clear picture of how successful the church is at making disciples, you would need to collect as much data as possible- first time guest attendance, 2nd time guest attendance, salvation commitments, water baptisms, small group attendance, completions of discipleship curriculum, etc.

Having a defined vision for what a disciple looks like and the plan in place to take a person all the way from unbeliever to committed disciple gives you the ability to looks at each step along the way and determine whether you are being successful in reaching the goal or not.

For instance, you would be able to know if people are getting baptized in droves but aren't plugging into discipleship relationships through small groups like Stretch Mark mentioned.

Dave Ferguson

I am loving the thoughtful comments. Thanks!

My latest thinking on this topic is that a churches metrics should be a reflection of their understanding of the mission of Jesus. This post is a quick summary of my understanding of the Jesus mission: http://www.daveferguson.typepad.com/daveferguson/2011/12/the-jesus-mission.html

With that as an understand of the call and commission of the church I believe every church needs to create their own metric(s) that help them know if they are accomplishing the three components of the Jesus Mission: REACH, RESTORE and REPRODUCE. Let me give a brief clarification of what that might look like.

REACH requires a metric that tells us if people are being reached and apprenticed as followers of Jesus. These metrics could include # of baptisms, # of people who attend church, # of people who are in small groups, # of people that are serving and more.

RESTORE requires a metric that tells us if people neighborhoods and communities are being restored to the way that God dreamed it would always be. These metrics could be reducing the crime rate, increasing the graduation rate, decreasing the divorce rate, etc. These metrics will be unique to each context.

REPRODUCE requires a metric that tells if a church is reproducing at and creating movement. These metrics could be # or % of people with an apprentice, # of new groups or teams reproduced, # of campuses or churches reproduced.

I offer REACH, RESTORE and REPRODUCE as three broad categories that every church must create it's own unique metrics that are fitting for that ministry and context.

Reactions? Thoughts?

Bobby Reed

Number of fewer orphans. Number of restored marriages. Number of widows ministered to. Number of imprisoned visited and ministered to. Number of addictions broken. Number of foreigners loved on.


In addition to the in house church metrics I think it is helpful to include community data.

*If a church exists within a community and
*If the church's role is to live as kingdom people within that community and, through the power of the Spirit, to extend the kingdom's influence

*Then the community will begin to look more like the kingdom

Including poverty data, school test score data, foreclosure data, etc. may help the church to get a better idea of its real effectiveness.


Dave, love the idea of measuring "restore", do you know churches measuring these things now? How do they/you account for variables to understand the direct impact?

Is there a stage where this is easier to assess than others?

Seems that struggling through metrics (not just statements of mission) within a community does give clarity to what we really care about, I think...and must look different..


I opened this can of worms a year ago in a series of posts. Not sure I resolved it, but I think the approach & questions get to the heart of the matter. Thoughts?




Ken White

Just read through the post on your article on stats. I found them thought provoking and normally don't respond without reflecting, but then most ofen don't get back the the response. Personally, I think that stats are important. They are not so important in measuring the person and path they are on, but in measuring and recording the open opportunitis of the Church both past and present to guide the future. The sports stats you referenced are used in placing a value on the individual and reaching a judgement factor on the worth of that player. This is not a path for church members to take. However, the church needs stats to evaluate where it's ministries have been and where they need to go in the future. Certainly the financial "stats" can give you a wake-up call, but it's not going to give you an evaluations point of what has been meaningful to your membership and what has not. Attendance is a good stat, but does not measure committment beyond scheudled worship services. You need to know if your attendees and members are finding a place in the ministries you are providing. Are their needs being nurtured by what the church has organized for them. We don't need to measure discipleship of individuals to assign a value to something that may be as simple as a kind word to someone having a bad day. Just my thoughts.

Alex Absalom

Hi Dave,

A colleague passed this post onto me - it's a great conversation! I really like your REACH, RESTORE and REPRODUCE section, very helpful.

My wife and I have been wrestling with these questions for a long time now. At RiverTree we are defining a disciple as someone who is intentionally choosing to learn from Jesus, in the context of a Jesus-centered community. This means that they are accountably responding to two ongoing questions: what is Jesus saying, and what am I (or are we) doing in response?

In turn, this means that our #1 measure of success as a church is, how many people do we have in discipling relationships? Clearly we use lots of other metrics as well, but we're trying to make the shift to this being our top one.

Obviously there's lots more to say - in fact I've just blogged on this as part of a series I'm doing on how a more missional approach impacts our weekend church services (https://alexabsalom.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/measuring-how-to-make-disciples/) - and I look forward to hearing more on this from you and the other posters here!


I don't get why pastors spend so much time on stats. I'm not a pastor, but it seems to me that the bible does not command us to count. I also believe that counting things that, by their nature, are mysterious, unseen and of-the-heart, does more harm than good. I think it sets an example of legalism and arrogance.

Of course we get some stats in Acts when the Holy Spirit supernaturally grows the church... but we don't see stats in very many other places, and I don't think they were ever being used to measure church effectiveness. I think they were included to proclaim the goodness and grace of God.

Billy Beane was tasked with hiring people he didn't know to win a game... I don't think that translates to the church. He dealt with stats because he couldn't personally meet and observe every player for every position he was trying to fill. He couldn't even watch film on all of those players, so he was using stats to solve a logistical problem. It seems like the overuse of stats in the church is an attempt at defining a spiritual problem, but my question is: why spend so much time measuring... Billy Beane spent more of his resources on solving than he spent on measuring.

Also, here's a quote from Bonhoeffer that I fully agree with: "Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature," (LIFE TOGETHER, 50).


A new friend suggested these four questions to measure spiritual growth:

1. Are we softening our hearts?
2. Are we growing in gratitude?
3. Are we embracing suffering?
4. Are we learning to live without fear?

On their own, not all that helpful, but combined with hard stats like attendance, conversions, baptisms, serving, involvement, etc they can become very meaningful.

Brian Hofmeister

We tried measuring discipleship in a spiritual formation role I held at a church. Knowing that some of the most important stuff was more internal (Repentance, Faith, Sacrifice, Celebration, Incarnation, Restoration, extending Atonement, etc...), we came up with a self-assessment targeting these things distributed quarterly.

We weren't looking for a right answer, we were looking for progress over time.

The biggest issue, for which the project ultimately tanked, is that it was tough to get enough participation to truly consider the results reflective of where we were as a church.

Evelyn E. Theodore

If the matter concerns faith there's no use thinking of why and what for the church does the thing it does. We need institutions for everything, so the church is the institution that homes our faith.

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