Outcome measures – Can you measure spiritual maturity in a local church?

Yes.  It is possible to quantify spiritual maturity in a local church.  Every non-profit along with all churches can learn from that answer. 

All non-profit organizations should listen carefully to learn that it is possible to measure these types of intangible factors.

Are you putting time and effort into stuff that is helping people in the church grow and become more spiritually mature or are you just pushing spiritual busy-work?  There is a group that has been able to use modern consumer-survey techniques to quantify the levels of spiritual maturity of individuals in a local church.  A research team has labeled four levels of maturity, each of which has its own behaviors:

  • Exploring Christ
  • Growing in Christ
  • Close to Christ
  • Christ Centered

Through surveys, the team can categorize people into a specific category.  Some overviews of their work are here and here.

What are some of the astounding insights?  For me, here are just a few of the remarkable things the research team found:

  • The level of church involvement has no correlation to spiritual maturity – in other words, doing lots of “stuff” at church doesn’t seem to have any impact on spiritual growth.
  • Lots of people are stuck at level 2 – 22% of the people surveyed are stuck.  If those of us in leadership could figure out what is behind people being stuck, and provide them a helping-hand so they can break out of those patterns, they could start growing again.
  • Most of the evangelism, giving, serving, and praying is done by people who are at the highest level.  If you want to change how much praying, giving, and serving is taking place in your body of believers, then grow your people.
  • A lot of people at the most mature level are discouraged and becoming disengaged.  That is an unsettling waste of time and talent – (combine this idea with the previous point to figure out the huge impact of this disengagement).  If we in leadership can help the discouraged to re-engage, can you imagine the increased kingdom impact that would follow?

You can get two superb books to discuss this at the Willow Creek Association web site, Reveal: Where Are You and Follow Me: What’s Next for You.

Don’t know whether you like the Willow Creek community, or can’t stand them, or are indifferent.  It doesn’t matter.  One of the most amazing finds from their research is that the results are consistent across denominational boundaries.  I have learned that a large congregation in my denomination was one of the first participants in the survey.  Thus, my conclusion is that particular congregation follows the patterns described in the book.  In addition, I would infer that my local congregation does as well.  All of us can learn from these books.

Previous post; are you running around in circles and measuring outcomes is difficult.  Next posts: why does this matter to churches? and what difference does this make to your NPO?

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