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Church Planting Field Story North America USA - ISC

Series: What is Church? Part 3

“Believers are discipled toward maturity” be measured on a scale, by a yes or no answer, or by calculating the percentage of church members who are actively being discipled?"

As we conclude our series called What Is Church? we look at some models that can help us answer some othe questions we have discussed. We take a look at some questions to ask regarding measurment inversion and what that might look like in an organization. May we continue to plant the church where God leads and be educated more in how to measure what church is. 

Is Your Organization Suffering From Measurement Inversion?
How do we know if we’re measuring the right things? The following exercise will help leaders identify whether their organization is suffering from measurement inversion.

1. Systematically work through reports from church planters and highlight activities and
outcomes in two different colors. How much of the report has to do with activities and
how much has to do with outcomes?
2. Are you measuring only what is easy, (e.g., counting converts, baptisms, church
attendance, etc.) or are you focusing on what is important, i.e., the spiritual health of
emerging or immature churches?
3. What do church planters do with reports? Are they simply filed and forgotten, or do they provide vital information that informs strategy?
     If leaders are not satisfied with the answers to these questions and conclude that they need to change what they measure, the following three steps will help them begin the process. First, leaders should count the cost of making this significant organizational change. When we shift from measuring activity to measuring outcomes we are, in effect, changing the rules of the game while the game is in progress. Despite leaders’ efforts to guide church planters through the transition, it is almost inevitable that some people will decide to leave the organization.
     Second, leaders should put together a design team. This should include one of the organization’s top executives, a project champion (or owner), and a person who is qualified to be the team’s theological watchdog. The design team will seek input from leaders and practitioners throughout the design process. Third, the project champion has to be released from some current duties to focus on developing the instrument. The rest of this article can be used a step-by-step guide for
the design team. Define the Object of Measurement, i.e., Church.
     As mentioned above that the end goal, or target, for church planters should be a biblically
healthy church. The target “biblically healthy church,” however, is too vague to be observed and quantified. The design team needs to take the target and deconstruct it into sub-targets and observable indicators. Sub-targets are the components that characterize biblically healthy church. They don’t describe the church-planting activities, but rather the results of those activities.
     The list of subtargets, when taken together, should be an accurate description of a healthy church without going beyond the biblical definition of church. The design team prepares a draft list of sub-targets, which they revise and rewrite as they receive input from leaders and practitioners. To keep the list of sub-targets manageable, the final list should be as short as possible (e.g., seven or fewer
     The following questions can serve as a guide for the design team as they define
1. Is the sub-target a description of an outcome (rather than an activity)?
2. Is the sub-target an essential and irreducible component of a healthy church?
3. Taken together, do the identified sub-targets comprise an adequate description of a
healthy church or are other components still missing?
4. Does any sub-target go beyond what is biblical (i.e., do they reflect the organization’s
traditions or cultural idiosyncrasies)?
     One can think of sub-targets as a success checklist; when the condition is achieved we check the corresponding box. Sub-targets, however, are not observable in a way that shows progress toward their achievement. For this reason, the design team needs to define at least one observable indicator for each sub-target.
    An indicator is “the exemplary, concrete description of an essential feature of a sub-target.” A helpful starting point for defining indicators is to filter each sub-target through a series of questions and determine which answers identify its essential features. The key questions are: who, what, when, where, how, and how much/many?16 Not all six of these questions will be equally helpful for every sub-target. It is vital, therefore, to keep Hubbard’s comments in mind; focus only on features that provide information that affects decisions.17 In other words, when these questions are posed, which answers affect or inform how a church-planting team would use its resources? Take, for example, the sub-target believers are discipled toward maturity.  
     Note that the essential feature in this case has been defined by the question what. The desired condition is that the vast majority (eighty percent) of the believers are noticeably in the process of becoming mature Christians. The question how could have many answers, however the actual methods, material, or program design are not essential since they focus on inputs rather than outcomes. In this case, what is more important than how. In fact, if the indicators were defined by the question how (e.g., believers have completed a discipleship curriculum), we would fall into measurement inversion; we measure what is easy, rather than what is important.
     The amount of discipleship material a person has completed may not correlate with spiritual maturity. The design team should decide on the best method for scoring each indicator. When data are quantitative, scoring the indicator is relatively simple. For an indicator like “There are at least two elders.” you simply count. When quantitative data are expressed in homogenous units (e.g.,dollars), ratios can be calculated. The numbers help the church planter track progress toward the goal of having the church financially selfsupporting.
     When indicators do not yield quantitative data, yet can be observed to varying degrees, it is best to rate the indicator on a scale. Note that all qualitative measurements are subjective and depend on scorers’ judgments or opinions. It is important, therefore, to design scales that provide consistent ratings from different raters. In order to do so, the following steps must be taken.
     First, define what is meant by the each of the key terms. Second, design a rubric, a set of criteria that raters will use to determine how an item should be scored. The rubric defines what a rater needs to observe in church elders in order to rate them accurately and consistently. Third, insure that raters are trained to use the rubric.

Three Helpful Questions
     Even with the guidelines mentioned above, it often is difficult to decide which measurement method is best for each indicator. For example, should an indicator like “Believers are discipled toward maturity” be measured on a scale, by a yes or no answer, or by calculating the percentage of church members who are actively being discipled? The following questions may help when deciding which measurement method should be used:
1. Which method reduces uncertainty regarding the indicator’s essential feature?
2. Which method provides higher information value, i.e., it informs the decisions of the
church-planting team?
3. Which method is most likely to produce the same response when scored by different
Weighting the Indicators
When a sub-target has more than one indicator the team needs to consider whether the indicators are equally important. Based on the biblical understanding of the sub-target and the values of the team, some sub-targets may be deemed less important in the overall achievement of the subtarget. The team should adjust the computation of the sub-target accordingly.

Avant Ministries’ Measurement Instrument
     In 2002 Avant Ministries began to work through a process similar to the one described in this article. It was a two-year process in which leaders and hands-on church planters gave input to each draft of sub-targets and indicators. In retrospect, the leaders at Avant recognize that the process itself is valuable. It insured that the instrument would be sound both in theory and in practice. Additionally, it helped church planters buy-in to the new instrument. The following summary of Avant’s measurement instrument is, consequently, to be treated as an example of an outcomes-measurement instrument rather than an instrument that must be adopted by all church

Final Reflections
     I have worked on two church planting projects with Avant Ministries. The two projects had a number of similarities. Both were set in predominantly Catholic Europe where church planters were seeing very little fruit. In both projects I had excellent co-workers who were gifted and passionate about seeing the church established. Yet one project was substantially more successful than the other. I believe that it was largely due to the fact that in the successful project the team had a clear definition of church, and an instrument for measuring progress toward the goal. The clear goal and constant measurement kept us from straying from our mission, and was a guide for decision making. Most importantly, it gave us a glimpse into what God was doing, which caused us to take bigger steps of faith than we otherwise might have taken.

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