Some things in life are easy to measure.
How many times did you tweet?
How many Double Stuf Oreos did you eat?
How many miles per gallon does your vehicle get?
Some things in life are harder to measure.
How much water is in the ocean?
How many people live in the Ukraine?
How much milk can a seventh grader drink without puking?
Then there are some things that seem un-measurable.
How much does a mother love her child?
How do you know when someone is “over” their ex?
How well does a foster child integrate into a new home?
When it comes to the things that seem un-measurable, you notice a common element: relational connections. People don’t have high-tech digital monitors to indicate how connected they feel. There isn’t a “mood ring” or a hyper-color T-shirt (remember those?) to let you know if every kid feels like your ministry is a place where they belong. Wouldn’t it be great if there were?
Even though you can’t visually, tangibly measure the depth of a relationship or the degree to which someone is connected, you can observe a few things that will indicate whether or not a kid feels known.
The most basic indicator is something pretty profound: A kid will feel known when someone knows them.
Seriously. When there is a consistent leader who knows their name, their dog’s name, and the way they like to fix their hot dog with relish and cheese and no mustard, then a kid will feel known. And there’s a good chance kids need to feel known by someone before they will feel known and loved by God.
Have you ever thought about the fact that there’s a connection between knowing and caring?
Maybe that’s why the Psalmist wrote about God’s intricate knowledge of creation.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. Psalm 147:4-5
Or why there is an entire Psalm dedicated to God’s knowledge of us.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:1-5
Or why Luke reminds us that God knows the very number of hairs on our head.
That’s a pretty strange thing to know when you really think about it. Why hairs on our head? It seems like a random thing to mention. But we think the purpose is simple: God wants us to know how much He knows, because it shows how much He cares.
If you want to measure the success of your weekly experiences, you should ask two questions.
Are kids connected?
Are they known?
That may seem like an over-simplification. But, remember you can’t measure something until you’ve taken the time to define what really matters. When it comes to creating a culture of small groups, your goal is to give a kid a person and a place so they will know they belong. So, your measurements should be designed to evaluate how well you are succeeding at that goal.
And you do need measurements.
Just like . . .
a poet knows words.
a mathematician knows formulas.
You actually need to know some details about your ministry.
Knowing shows you care—and it may actually make you care more.
If you are not wired for structure, it may not come naturally for you to focus on details and numbers and reporting. But there are some details that matter too much to be ignored, which is why someone in your ministry should know the details. Someone should own the weekly job of evaluating your ministry to see if connection is happening.
If you’re still not big on trying to measure the un-measurable, maybe this is something to consider. You might as well evaluate what you do. Chances are someone else is already looking over your shoulder to gauge how well they think your ministry is working.
Maybe it’s a senior or executive pastor.
Maybe it’s the parents.
Maybe it’s the kids or teenagers.
Here’s a question: Who decides which yardsticks should be used to measure what you do? If you aren’t a part of clarifying the win for your ministry, someone else will be. If you aren’t proactively evaluating your ministry, others will evaluate it for you. And if someone is evaluating you by a different standard, you can imagine how well your ministry will measure up.
Don’t let an outsider evaluate your ministry for you. Determine what the win looks like as a team, then proactively evaluate your weekly experiences. Let everyone agree on the standard you’re using to measure success, then invite them to give you feedback.
Just remember: There will still be times your ministry will feel un-measurable. That’s because you can’t measure what’s happening in the mind of a kid. You can’t measure what’s happening spiritually in their life. You can’t measure what they are feeling emotionally.
But there are some things every ministry can do to measure connection.
You measure the un-measurable when you . . .
Count the numbers.
I know what you’re thinking, This isn’t about numbers. Well, maybe in some ways it is. Numbers will never tell the whole story. But they will always tell part of it if you know how to interpret them. You can’t quantify spiritual growth. But you can look to the numbers as an indicator of some things. Maybe it helps to think of your ministry numbers like the scores in gymnastics.
When you’re watching gymnastics on television and the judges flash what seems like an arbitrary number on the scoreboard, it’s easy to think to yourself, That’s subjective. But the scores aren’t arbitrary. They are guided by clear and consistent guidelines. Every skill has an optimum value and every error made deducts from that total. Are the judges perfect? No. Will the score capture the essence of the performance? No. But the number the judges give for each routine will quantify something about the skill level and performance so it can be evaluated in comparison with another.
Remember, it’s hard to manage what you can’t measure. It’s hard to improve your weekly experiences if you don’t have a system of evaluation.
As you track these numbers, you are the interpreter of the data. Work with your team to interpret what they mean. If numbers are up, is there a reason you think it happened? If numbers are down, is there an explanation for why you think the drop is occurring? What do you know about the demographic of your community that informs your interpretation of data? Because if you lead a church in Chandler, Arizona, your numbers may be down in early March simply because it’s hard to compete with the live ostrich race happening right outside your doors.