Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Measuring Success - Sending Capacity

Metric #1 - Seating Capacity vs. Sending Capacity

Conventional church structures are largely measured with one question: How many people are coming to our stuff? In other words, seating capacity is a priority. The aim is to fill seats, or pews, and use that metric to determine effectiveness. If a church can say it is "drawing a crowd" and have the numbers to back it up, then it is viewed as successful. Over the last decade, I have been to more than enough conferences, retreats, and seminars to know this absolutely is the case. Church growth models and methods have become an industry unto themselves in recent years in our part of the world (as can be seen by some of the hyperlinks I've included within these posts). Making a congregation larger, by whatever means necessary, has become the prime directive of many church leaders. I have been personally entrenched in this mindset before.
To change the scorecard to what we believe is a much healthier metric, we attempt to measure our effectiveness by our sending capacity instead of our seating capacity. Now, rather than counting how many people are coming, the key indicator is how many people are GOING. The church is meant to be missional, on the move; a living, breathing organism. Therefore, the church is people - followers of Jesus - that are influencing the world in which they live. A critical shift, then, is to move from judging ourselves by how often we are taking people out of their natural contexts, such as work, home, school, the marketplace, etc. so that they can have "church" experiences; and move to judging ourselves by how effectively we are equipping one another to minister and serve IN their natural contexts, like at their job, in their marriage, on their campus, with their neighbor, and other arenas of life. Wouldn’t this be a more common sense, real life approach?
How can we consider the questions that need to be asked to keep an active, "going", missional practice at the forefront. While many conventional churches work to avoid what are called "growth barriers" (those obstacles to certain levels of congregation size), simple churches are most effective when they are working to overcome "impact barriers" (obstacles that interfere with missional living in various real-life contexts). We want to address what it is that is preventing us from making an impact in our community and in our ordinary, everyday lives.
It is also important to realize that bigger is not always better, and 'mega' is not always the ideal. The truth is that Jesus usually had much more intimate interactions with people. The early churches that we know of in the New Testament met in homes mostly. Clearly, there is a connection between 2 or 3 (or 12 or a household) and spiritual growth. In other words, my argument is that a group of 4-5 believers that are effectively serving in their world and living out their faith on mission is far more effective and biblical than a church of 400-500 attendees that are doing little more than showing up for services. In the words of Amy Grant's recent song, sometimes there are other things "better than a Hallelujah."

What would a new scorecard in this area look like in your context?
What would shifting from “seating capacity” to “sending capacity” as a priority mean in terms of how we disciple our children and youth?


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