In my blog last week I mentioned that I don’t agree with the idea that numbers are an indication of the impact that a church is having. In fact I would go a step further and say that numbers may hide the impact. Numerical growth may give a large church the impression that it is having a much larger impact than it really is. It may also cause a small church to arrive at the conclusion that it isn’t having any impact at all.
So how does a church measure its impact? There is no simple tool that a church can use that will show exactly where it’s impact lies on a scale of 1 – 10. There are, however, some often overlooked measurements that can help churches gain a more accurate picture of the impact that they are having.
The extended impact of your church
I attend a church that is just on the upper limit of what I would see as a small church. Alma Bible Church is situated in the town of Alma located north of the city of Guelph. It is the place that I call home when I am not speaking elsewhere or on the road visiting church leaders.
Like every other church that I know Alma Bible Church does some things very well and other things not so well. All this to say that like your church we are a work in progress.
One of the keys when measuring impact is to include both those things that a church does well and those things that are still a struggle. It is only when a church includes both in the mix that it comes up with a clear picture of what it’s impact really is.
I want to share with you one thing that Alma has done very well and it is an important ingredient in the impact mix of any church but of small churches in particular.
- a young woman who grew up in the church served as Director of Finance for an international mission
- a young couple serve as the Directors of a Christian camp
- a young man works with YWAM out of their training center in Hawaii
- a young man is serving as an associate pastor
- a couple are serving as the pastoral team in a church in Northern Ontario
- a couple are missionaries serving in Papua New Guinea
- a young man just graduated from Bible College and is looking for a place in which to serve
- a team of four men just went to the Czech Republic on a mission trip
- a couple served as directors of a Christian Camp in Southern Ontario
- a young man is serving university students in Asia
- a number of young people over the past few years have attended seminary, spent summers in Christian ministry and served as interns in various parts of the world
I am sure that the church leaders would not claim credit for what God has done in the hearts of these people but as you can see there has been a steady stream of people who have attended the church and have moved into some aspect of full-time Christian ministry. This has allowed the church to have an impact that extends far beyond the little village of Alma, an impact that won’t be fully known this side of eternity.
Setting extended-impact goals
Most churches have someone who has come out of the church and entered into some form of Christian ministry. I praise God every time that happens but my experience has been that in most cases the church has a limited influence in making it happen. God moves in the life of someone within the church. That person comes to the leadership and shares the vision. The church agrees to support the person through finances, prayer and encouragement.
In almost every case though the process is reactive on the part of the church rather than proactive. The church usually responds quite well when the person shares her vision but I do have to wonder what would happen if part of the church’s vision was to proactively send out people into ministry.
What would happen if the church actively sought out people who showed leadership qualities with the goal of sending them out? I think of this particularly in regard to young people but it wouldn’t have to be limited to the youth.
A few years ago I did a survey in which I asked evangelical leaders who had grown up in a small church what it was in that experience that prepared them for leadership. Two answers appeared over and over again.
The first was that in the small church there was opportunity to serve. I received answers such as “I preached my first sermon when I was seventeen” or “I taught Sunday school when I was sixteen” or “I helped lead the youth group when I was just a high school student.”
It is so important to create opportunities for people to serve and then to give those people, even when they are in their teenage years, the authority to exercise leadership.
The second answer was that they were mentored in the small church. Someone walked along side them in their attempts to serve. People took an interest in them and helped them grow in their walk with God.
Expanding your impact
The church of Jesus Christ is much bigger than the group of people who meet in your location on Sunday mornings. The church extends beyond your four walls, beyond your community, beyond our nation of Canada. It covers the whole world. God wants your church to have an impact that extends to the worldwide church that incorporates every nation, language and ethic group. Don’t wait for it to happen. Plan to make it happen.