What are we really going to measure?

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 Dear CT Blog readers,

I need your help.  What follows is a draft, a first stab at trying to nail down what congregations will be asked to measure and report for their Missional Vital Signs.  It does not address how congregational leaders will gather these measurements.  We will get to that later.  First, we need to be clear what will be measured.  What follows is the result of many conversations with different congregational leaders, but it is still provisional.  What isn’t clear?  What suggestions would you make?  What’s missing that needs to be included?

I really welcome and appreciate your assistance in this.

Dr. Jeff Stiggins
Office of Congregational Transformation


Missional Vital Signs
What are we really going to measure?

The purpose of the Missional Vital Signs is to assist congregational leaders (1) to focus on the five core practices essential in “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” and (2) to know whether they are making headway effectively living into the practices.  Making disciples not gathering measurements is our real goal.  Measuring is just a tool to assist congregations to be more fruitful in making disciples.   One key measurement has been selected to give an indication of a congregation’s effectiveness in each of the five practices. 

Beginning January 1, 2009, congregations may begin reporting their Missional Vital Signs and by July 1, 2009 every congregation will be expected to do so.  Missional Vital Signs will be gathered weekly and reported monthly.  Once a month, a designated person in your congregation will receive an email with a web link which will enable five numbers for each weekend in the month to be reported.  When the information is sent, the results can be immediately seen on the year-to-date chart for your church on the Missional Vital Signs website which can be reached directly at http://www.flumc2.org/yearly.asp or by clicking the  Missional Vital Signs logo on the conference (www.flumc.org) or congregational transformation website (www.congregationaltransformation.com/). 

Before congregational leaders can decide the best way to gather their weekly Missional Vital Signs, we need first to be clear about what we are going to measure and report for each of the discipling practices.  What we measure needs to be simple enough that it can be repeated weekly with consistency.  More important than absolute accuracy is an indication of trends in the effectiveness of a congregation’s practice of ministry.


The number of persons in attendance at the principal weekly worship service(s). 

“Principal weekly worship service(s)” includes any service held on a weekly basis as a primary opportunity for worship.  In many congregations this will be the Sunday morning service(s).  However, if the congregation has other worship services attended primarily by persons who generally do not attend on Sunday morning, attendance at these services should be included. 

For example, some congregations have a Saturday night service to which people come instead of Sunday morning.  Some congregations have youth worship services on Sunday evenings as part of their youth ministry; this is where youth typically worship each week, rather than on Sunday morning, and attendance at these services should be included. 

Children who participate in all or part of any such service may be included in the count.  This would include children who participate in a children’s church service especially designed for them.  This would not include infants in the nursery who do not attend a worship service.

Some congregations have traditionally included in their weekly count a group of people who are away together on a retreat or mission trip.  This certainly seems fair as it does reflect the number of persons in the congregation who are in worship that weekend.

Without being persnickety about it, the intention is to count individuals who attend worship only once a weekend.  We needn’t worry that Grandmother Jones came to three worship services one weekend because her granddaughter was singing at each of them and she gets counted three times.  However, if the same 25 member choir sings at all three worship services, it would be a more accurate reflection of the congregation’s real attendance in worship not to include them in the count three times.

Occasional worship services, such as Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or funerals services should not be included in the weekly count.  


The number of persons received into membership by “profession of faith” and “reaffirmation of faith” this week.

“Profession of faith” is the first public expression of commitment to Christian faith by an individual in which she or he acknowledges commitment to Jesus Christ and pledges to learn to live life as his disciple.  This may include youth who have gone through a confirmation process and are now joining the church.  This may also include adults who have never before been a member of a congregation, but now come to faith and choose to live out their faith as part of your congregation.

“Reaffirmation of faith” refers to persons who have been baptized at some point in their life, but have not been actively involved in a congregation for quite some time.  Such persons usually are experiencing a renewal of faith and are choosing to live out their faith as part of your congregation.  They are nottransferring their membership from another congregation.



The number of persons involved this week in small discipling groups.

A “small discipling group” involves approximately 2–15 persons who are gathering for the purpose of growing in their walk with Christ.  Such groups should involve the following five elements:  (1) a shared commitment to mature as followers of Jesus Christ, (2) reflection on Scripture, (3) discussion about what it means to live out God’s Word in our everyday lives, (4) honest sharing, and (5) prayer.  In short, people in “small discipling groups” are training to better follow and to be more like Jesus.

This means that all church groups are not small discipling groups.  There are groups designed for other purposes (for example, fellowship, education or service) that are not intentional discipling groups.  A line dancing group wouldn’t be.  A gathering of men for breakfast while listening to the mayor speak would not be, either.  Neither would most Board of Trustee meetings, though administrative committees certainly could be structured as discipling groups.  Some large lecture oriented Sunday school classes would be questionable, as they are realistically more like another worship service than a gathering of persons intentionally committed to helping each other become more mature apprentices of Jesus Christ. 

A Disciple Bible Study group would certainly count.  So would most Sunday school classes, if they are intentional about discipling their participants.  Alpha groups would count.  Many youth groups are focused on helping each other become better disciples.  So might a group seeking to apply God’s word to their marriage or to parenting or to their financial life.  A group that gathers to do a particular ministry (like making celebrate Jesus type visits in their community) might, if they took time to read Scripture, reflect together and pray before heading out.  A Celebrate Recovery group would certainly be.  And so would two accountability partners who meet weekly by phone to pray, read Scripture and encourage one another in their walk with Christ. 
Local leaders will have to determine which groups meet the minimum requirements of an intentional discipling group in their congregation. 


The number of persons weekly in worship who say that they have joined Jesus in Salty Service to persons outside their congregation for at least one hour.

“Salty Service” is defined in terms of any of four elements:
 Hands-on mercy ministry alleviating the suffering of others
 Justice ministry addressing systems that cause suffering
 Earth-care as a steward of God’s creation
 Relationship building easing emotional or spiritual needs

Unlike measurements for the other four practices, worshipers will weekly self-select whether they have met the criteria of “Salty Service.”  Their self-selection will not be as verifiable as the other measurements.  But again, the goal is to focus on and encourage Salty Service, not gaining absolutely accurate numbers.

Many persons will self-select that they have been a Salty Servant this week who were involved in church-sponsored ministries.  They may be part of a mission trip, be one of the congregation’s monthly volunteers in a soup kitchen or teach an English as a second language class offered at the church.  Persons may also be involved in ministries that are not church sponsored.  A person may choose on their own, for example, to tutor at a local school, to repair a toilet for an elderly neighbor, to work with the community Red Cross, to take part in an community taskforce planning an Earth Day event, to spend time intentionally cultivating a relationship with an unchurched person, or to take part in a beach cleanup day.

The gathering of this measurement will have to go hand-in-hand with communicating to worshipers what is meant by “Salty Service.”  This will require the pastor and/or liturgist regularly shaping people’s understanding about what is meant by “mercy,” “justice,” “earth-care” and “relationship building” ministries.  Local examples will need to be given.  Opportunities for people to share how they are being a Salty Servant will create Salty Servant role-models in the congregation.  The intent is that over time, being a Salty Servant will become as fundamental to being a normal Christian as attending worship, being involved in an intentional discipling group, being an agent of Christ’s love to others, and tithing. 


The total amount given weekly by persons to the congregation for budget, capital and missional purposes.

This would include all contributions received by the church for these purposes during the week.  Pledge and loose plate offerings would be included.  Funds given for capital debt, building or repairs would be included.  Also included would be special offerings to ministries beyond the church; for example:  the Children’s Home, a youth mission trip, Habitat for Humanity, Storm Recovery or a sister congregation in Cuba or Angola. 

All personal contributions funneled through the church treasurer should be counted.  The only funds excluded would be interest income, facility use fees, income from child-care or adult day-care ministries, and memorial funds -- because these do not reflect immediately on the financial generosity of the worshiping congregation.  (There is a sense in which memorial funds do reflect the financial generosity of the congregation.  However, a single significant gift can also make the whole congregation look extravagantly generous, when in fact, that may be far from true.)

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