Social Acceptance: A Missional Metric

Posted in cultural relevance, guest post, missiology by Nathan Creitz on June 30, 2009


This is a guest post from Jon Reid. Jon blogs regularly at Blog One Another. He often writes about the intersections between culture, technology, and Jesus-centered spirituality.


What does your church measure, and why?

Evangelicals are fond of metrics. I don’t think the Church Growth Movement started this, but they took it to new levels, looking for ways to measure things that contribute to increased attendance. As a software engineer, I can certainly appreciate this. But I also know a couple of things from my engineering experience:

  • Whatever you measure will be deemed “important,” even if there are other things that are more important.
  • People will “game the system” to improve the numbers, even if it doesn’t have any true benefit.

Some people claim that this makes metrics worthless, but that is throwing out the baby with the bath water. We just need to keep the numbers in perspective. To twist the Master’s words a bit, “Metrics were made for people, not people for metrics.”

So I think metrics are useful. But what do churches generally measure? Worship service attendance, or “number of butts,” is still the a-number-one metric. Why? Partly because it’s so easy. (This certainly predates the Church Growth Movement. Do you remember the sign off to the side showing “Today’s hymns” and “Last week’s attendance”?) Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with measuring how many people show up to an event. But if we focus on this number, it will drive us to be event-centric rather than relationship-centric.

Counting butts is an attractional metric.
If you want spiritual metrics, I recommend Natural Church Development.
But what about missional metrics?

Hugh Halter of Missio has offered twelve missional metrics they use which I recommend you check out. Today I want to define another missional metric:

Number of invitations from non-Christians

That is, instead of the number of times you’ve invited them to something, how many times have they invited you? Parties, concerts, movies, game nights, sporting events… This is a measure of your social acceptance by any group you are trying to reach. (Another variation to include is the number of times they’ve asked you for a personal favor.)

“Number of invitations” is not a sufficient metric to show well you are communicating the gospel. But by providing a measure of your social acceptance, it can reveal how you are doing at building friendships — which are the single greatest influence in people choosing to follow Jesus Christ. If you are focusing on a particular group and this number is low, try to determine what it means. (Don’t forget to pray for insight and divine appointments.)

So back to the opening question: What does your church measure, and why? Have metrics helped you live missionally, or distracted you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

[Photo image courtesy of Darren Hester]

Related Post: Checklist Christianity vs. Following Jesus ::  Subscribe


6 Responses

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  1. Jeremy Hoover said, on June 30, 2009 at 2.22 pm

    Jon, I love the concept of measuring via “number of invitations by non-Christians.”

    Christians who really struggle with evangelism should continue to be encouraged to simply invite others to their gatherings, but over time, the metric of integration you mentioned should be key because it’s really measuring how well we are building real relationships with others.

    I can easily throw out very casual invitations to people I don’t even know that well, go to church, and talk about how many people I’m inviting. Or I can honestly examine my life, as you suggest, to see how many non-Christians I’m seriously engaged with.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Jon Reid said, on June 30, 2009 at 10.20 pm

    Thanks, Jeremy!
    An important thing about social acceptance is that it does not require the gift of evangelism. So I would encourage you to point the folks who struggle with evangelism in this direction. Then identify the people who *are* gifted in evangelism, and drag them along to the parties, concerts, etc.

  3. jorgebessa said, on July 1, 2009 at 8.00 pm

    Great! The problem with “attractional metric” is that it sometimes it leads to a “compromised preaching”. Even when churches don’t compromise the Truth in what is preached, sometimes the wholeness of the Truth is compromised by selecting what can be said or not. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Jon Reid said, on July 1, 2009 at 8.23 pm

      jorgebessa, that might be an example of “gaming the system” to improve numbers. Can we measure attendance at an event without that measurement eventually compromising our focus? I think we can.

  4. josenmiami said, on July 4, 2009 at 7.59 am

    thats a good one, and very encouraging to me … I get more invitations to parties, to go dancing, bars, birthdays, etc every week than I can possibly respond to.

    good to know I am on the right track.


    • Jon Reid said, on July 4, 2009 at 12.01 pm

      josenmiami, that’s great!

      Next: Notice how often spiritual topics come up in conversation. Because my friends know I’m a Christian, they’re not thrown off if I bring up a spiritual slant that fits naturally into a conversation. In fact, more often than not, I don’t need to, because they do.

      Bonus: If you don’t have the gift of evangelism, find someone who does. Take that person with you.

      Above all, pray before you go. Pray while you’re there having a good time. Ask the Lord to show you what he’s up to.

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