We Measure What We Value

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Best Practices | 0 comments

We measure what we value and value what we measure. That is one of many takeaways from Counterinsurgency (New York: Oxford Press, 2010) by David Kilcullen. While the book is intended for “civilian and military students and practitioners of counterinsurgency,” I discovered several insights that may help leaders of the local church. Here and now I highlight this simple truth: what we measure reflects what we value. David Kilcullen writes:

Organizations manage what they measure, and they measure what their leaders tell them to report on. Thus, one key way for a leadership team to shift an organization’s focus is to change reporting requirements and the associated measures of performance and effectiveness (51-52).

When we take those words and apply them to the local church, we get this: Congregations manage what they measure, and they measure what their leaders tell them to report on. Thus, one key way for a leadership team to shift a congregation’s focus is to change reporting requirements and the associated measures of performance and effectiveness.

If you want to have some fun, take that principle and run with it. Take a look, for example, at what your currently congregation measures for those reports will reflect your values. I think it safe to say that two of the most popular measurements in the church are attendance and receipts. After nearly four decades of service to the local church, I have lost track of how many congregations include that information in their regular publications. Ironically, attendance and receipts are the most popular measurements in the entertainment industry, which opens the door to a huge conversation that requires much more space than this short blog.

Interestingly, in nearly forty years of ministry, one of the measurements that I have not reported on or asked others to report on is discipleship. While Jesus calls the church to make disciples, I don’t find too many (if any ) congregations measuring discipleship. Looking back over my own files, I find reports measuring attendance and receipts, baptisms and membership, receipts and expenditures, but nothing on disciples and discipleship. Make me wonder: have I contributed to a church culture that doesn’t value discipleship? I fear I know the answer to that question. Looking back over my ministry, it is clear to me that I have developed more spectators than players, more believers than followers, and more seekers than disciples.

Where does that leave me? I think it best to confess that I have messed up. Maybe you want to join me? Together let’s acknowledge that the idea of measuring disciples is tough for a variety of reasons. After all, only God knows the hearts of men and women. But let’s not stop there. Let’s also admit to the Lord that as local congregations we have neglected our primary calling, which is to make disciples. Let’s just go to the Lord and say, “Forgive us.” Then, ask him to give the heart and the tools to shift the focus of our congregations to making disciples.

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