Redefining Outreach Success

Numbers do not validate a gospel ministry.

Statistics do not make a church credible.

If not treated with care, our human nature can draw inaccurate portraits from numbers. They can either puff up egos or create a disheartening atmosphere that paralyzes outreach activity.

Due to the radically changing landscape within our communities, congregations may rethink how to use numbers to gauge success in their outreach efforts. I believe there is a better gauge to use in today’s world.

The health of a business is dictated by the bottom line. Investors and stock-holders demand higher profits rather than stagnant growth. Pastors and church members expect the same.

Numbers matter.

Bottom lines are important.

But numbers don’t often measure faithfulness.

They assist gospel ministries to be good stewards of resources.

They assist congregations to gauge how members are taking full advantage of God’s means of grace.

When it comes to monitoring the bottom line of reaching lost souls, God may be telling his flock to mind their own business.

It is the business of the church to spread the Word.

It is God’s business to use that Word to accomplish his purpose and achieve what he desires.

Sometimes, God’s hand brings thousands to faith through the work of one church. Sometimes, God’s hand brings one soul to many churches.

Each time a lost soul repents and receives faith, the heavens open up with songs of rejoicing.

Faithfulness can’t be measured.

Or can it?

It depends on what gauge you are using.

Worship attendance has been a primary marker to gauge the health of a congregation. If members are faithful and are taking full advantage of God’s means of grace, they will attend worship services on a regular basis. That gauge accurately reflects congregational health.

Attendance, however, is not an accurate gauge of the outreach health of a congregation.

The number of children who attend VBS or another children’s event does not necessarily provide an accurate gauge to monitor outreach success. Here is a reason why.

Launching “come” events at a congregation as a primary means for evangelism are not prompting young families to “come” back.

It used to work twenty years ago.

There is a new paradigm for evangelism in today’s world.

There is a generation that is breeding children with biblical ignorance. People no longer are going to church because that’s what you do. Non-church membership is socially acceptable – even encouraged in mainstream media and pop culture. There is skepticism towards organized religion and its growing.

Some circles state that our society is “evolving” by accepting norms and behaviors that are contrary to biblical truth. Gallup and Pew Research are revealing the escalating numbers of why people are being drawn away from church. Therefore, congregations are struggling to gain traction when they focus solely on executing strategies that are based on drawing children from unchurched families to come to an event. Unchurched families are not automatically coming back to attend a worship service.

Attendance numbers are not accurate gauges of the outreach health of a congregation. Instead, there ought to be a new marker to assist congregations.

That new marker is engagement. This means stepping outside the boundaries of our church properties and connecting with people in the community.

How can you track engagement?

  • Count and celebrate the number of gospel seeds that are planted each month from members of your congregation.
  • Count and celebrate the number of times a member follows up with a first-time visitor.
  • Count and celebrate the number of contacts with people who have expressed an interest to learn more about your congregation.
  • Count and celebrate the number of times a member invites a friend, neighbor, or family member to church.
  • Count and celebrate the number of times a member gives a reason for the hope they have in Christ with an unsaved soul in their community.

It is God’s business that prompts a lost soul to make a scary decision and come to a worship service. It is our business to plant gospel seeds.

It is God’s business that prompts a lost soul to start attending a Bible information class. It is our business to invite people to attend.

It is God’s business that brings a lost soul to the waters of baptism. It is our business to spread the Word.

Why do we use statistics to gauge something that we ultimately have no control over? It can inflate egos by taking too much credit or dishearten congregations when numbers don’t match expectations.

Instead of counting attendance as the bottom line for outreach success, let’s count the number of times a person “goes” into the community to engage, invite, and proclaim the gospel.

Those numbers are what propels congregations to be mission-minded on a long-term basis.

And trusts God to take care of the bottom line of his business.

4 Comments on “Redefining Outreach Success

  1. Great article Dave. Maybe add “prayer” to that list. How many times did we pray for those friends or relatives to see the “truth”.
    Would churches be bold enough to take a physical measurement of how many people touched base with someone during the week? We fill out an attendance card each Sunday, how about asking how many prayed for a friend or relative to have the Holy Sprit come into their heart? Or better yet, a prayer of encouragement by the congregation for those who have those folks in their lives.
    I’ll fully admit I do a poor job of this. However, your article is an encouragement that can’t be overlooked. Thanks again.
    Thanks for

    • Great thought to include prayer. I think we need to rediscover a new matrix that gauges evangelism activity rather than results — that emphasizes personal evangelism as a new means to define outreach “success”. Thanks, Don.

  2. Peter had “successes” and “failures” but both the denial and the 3000 converts in one day were events of Gods perfect plan.
    Also, as an example… A wieght loss program was “unsuccessful” because of few pounds lost…Must be compared to what one would have gained WITHOUT the program. A small congregation that was faithfull..IS STILL THERE..and prepaired to grow quickly if/when in God’s perfect plan.

    • Thanks Leif. God’s hand is in all things — including “success” and “failures”. That frees us up to joyfully serve him — knowing that our God is behind every success and failure.

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