Most small churches don’t understand, and for that reason, don’t appreciate the extent of their impact on the world at large.
In most cases it goes far beyond what happens on a Sunday morning.
Impact or success
In a world that rewards “big” success is measured by how many many people attend services on a Sunday morning.
Impact, on the other hand, is measured by changed lives.
Success is a measurement of outward growth. Impact is a measurement of inward transformation.
When small churches aim at success, they usually end up frustrated and discouraged. History has shown that only a very small percentage of churches attain outward success.
When small churches aim at making an impact, they very often succeed. Some times though they don’t recognize their own success.
Impact measurements in a small church
The fact that impact involves inward transformation makes it difficult to measure. It is easy to measure success. One only has to count the number of people attending on a Sunday morning. If the number is going up, you are succeeding. If the number is going down, you are failing.
How do you measure something that is taking place inside the people that attend your church? The following questions might help:
1. What happens to our youth after they leave our church?
Far too often young people drop out of our churches when they graduate from high school. They leave all the spiritual anchors – family, church, youth group, friends – and move out into a brand new world. Too often they don’t acquire new anchors and as a result they drift away.
On the other hand there are youth who go on to live productive Christians lives in positions of leadership in other churches or in the broader Christian world. Those do so largely because of the impact of the church in which they were raised.
I heard recently of a church with twenty teenagers in their youth group. Nineteen of those young people went into some form of full-time Christian ministry. That is impact.
Another church has only a couple of young people but one of them is seriously thinking of serving full-time internationally. That is impact.
I am convinced that almost every small church has at least one teenager with leadership ability. By intentionally mentoring that young person or those young people, the church can have an impact that stretches far beyond the physical limits of the church itself.
How many of the young adults who grew up in your church are serving somewhere else today? That is a measure of your impact.
2. What happens when serious problems raise their heads in your church?
I attended a church yesterday that has experienced three deaths in the past few weeks all of which involved a key member of their church. I can hardly imagine how difficult it must be for the people that attend that small church as they process those losses.
It is at those difficult times that the small church is often at its best. It is the depth of relationship between the members that often carry the members through.
Our response to the good times in our lives is not the measure of spiritual depth in our lives. Anyone can respond well to a promotion at work, the birth of a baby, a wedding or any of the many other blessings that we experience.
The sign of spiritual depth is what we do with the bad times. It is when we face a death, the loss of our job, problems with our children or serious health issues that we show the depth of our walk with God.
There have been many times in my life as a pastor in which I have walked away from visits with people going through tough times marveling at the faith of the people involved. There was more than once when I felt that the church must be doing something right if people could face problems with their faith in an all-wise, all-loving God still in tact.
3. Are people living out their faith in the community beyond the church?
This is the tough one because often people are so committed to the church that they hardly have a life away from it. The measure of spiritual maturity is not so much that a person is at the church every time that its doors open but that the person is reaching out to the broader community in which they live.
One measure of the impact that your church is making may be how busy people are outside of the church.
People can be busy with no larger purpose other than their children are involved in a sport or they have a cause that they want to serve.
Impact comes when people see outside involvement as a part of extending the Kingdom of God into the world around them.
Developing your question list
The above three questions are just three of an endless list of questions that could be asked. My challenge to you would be to look for your own set of ways in which you are impacting people.
Forget about the success syndrome. God doesn’t call your church to put people into the seats so that you can brag about a full church.
He calls you to impact the people that you already have and through them to impact people who aren’t part of a church and therefore aren’t in a setting in which to be impacted.
I want to leave you with a final challenge. This week look at one person in your church and ask yourself what you need to do to impact that person for Jesus Christ. How can you invest your life into that person so that he/she becomes more the person that God wants him/her to be?
That is impact and that is what it is all about.