Exploding the Old Scoreboard
There are at least two problems with the current scoreboard:
1. It is entirely possible for a church’s attendance to be growing, while the kingdom of God is shrinking! Right now, there are more people attending church on any given weekend in the United States than ever before! We could conclude that U.S. church attendance is growing and therefore we must be winning, right? Wrong! While there are more people attending church than ever before, a smaller percentage of the total population in every state in the country is attending church than ever before! If we are content with that, we will never accomplish the mission of Jesus.
2. It is entirely possible for a church’s attendance to be growing, but the impact of the church is shrinking. The second problem is that, even if church attendance numbers were increasing faster than our country is growing, that stat completely ignores other vital statistics. I believe God is interested in a neighborhood’s crime rate, the percentage of people living below poverty level, the high school graduation rate, home ownership and more! Church attendance says nothing about the social metrics of our communities. And church attendance says nothing qualitative about the lives of the people in our churches. An attendance graph that is up and to the right does not guarantee that people are faithful in following Jesus and displaying the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
My friend and futurist, Reggie McNeal, describes a new scoreboard and three shifts that are taking place in forward-thinking churches.
1. From internal to an external focus
McNeal says, “First, we must move from an internal to an external focus. The church does not exist for itself. When it thinks it does, we’ve created a church-centric world. Our perception of reality is skewed. By external focus of ministry, we radically reorient to understand that we exist primarily to do ministry beyond ourselves.”
One of our newer sites at COMMUNITY is on the far north side of Chicago in the diverse neighborhood of Edgewater. This new location understands what it means to be externally focused. For more than a year before ever having a celebration service, Rich and Dori Gorman and their team volunteered every week in the local elementary school and at the alderman’s office. When we had the first celebration service at Swift Elementary School, the place was not only packed with people who were part of COMMUNITY, but also people who were part of several other not-for-profits that we honored. This new site of COMMUNITY was both “in” and “for” the Edgewater community from the very beginning.
There are now a number of very creative metrics being used by churches that have made the shift from an internal to an external focus. They are measuring the number of hours that volunteers from their church are investing in the community. Other churches have placed a priority on measuring the number of partnerships they have with local not-for-profits. The first shift we have to make is from internal to external.
2. From program development to people development
(Reggie) McNeal continues to make his case by saying, “We need to move from a program-driven agenda to a people-development agenda. Over time, the North American church has largely become a collection of programs run by staff or lay leaders. While we will certainly continue to have programs, I believe a new, people-development agenda will base its sense of accomplishment on how well its people are doing, not its programs. If you start with people, the programs then serve the people, not the other way around.”
I’m convicted that the best kind of people development happens through apprenticeship—a life-on-life relationship where one person invests in another. At COMMUNITY, we have used the “5-steps” for developing people and leaders with tremendous success. This is simple, reproducible and can be used with any leader at any level. Here are the steps:
1. I do. You watch. We talk.
2. I do. You help. We talk.
3. You do. I help. We talk.
4. You do. I watch. We talk.
5. You do. Someone else watches.
Because of our commitment to people development and leadership development, we keep track of and report every month how many apprenticeships are taking place and what percentage of our leaders have apprentices.
3. From church-based to kingdom-based leadership
McNeal explains the third shift by saying, “It is really a leadership response to the other two. It will require that leaders move from a maintenance or institutional model of leadership to a ‘movement model’ of leadership. Leading a movement is very different from leading an organization. Christianity was largely a street movement in its early days, when it turned the world on its head. Once we institutionalized it and put it into the hands of the clergy to run, then we lost the virility of that movement. It became all about institutional management. We have to return to the kind of leadership that’s required in leading a street movement, if we’re going to recapture that energy.”
In Acts 1:8 Jesus gave His team of apprentices a final challenge by saying, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus was describing a movement that would start right there with this small band of brothers and sisters and would move from Jerusalem across Judea into Samaria and, ultimately, around the globe of this planet. Jesus was casting a vision for a movement that would accomplish His mission. Church-based leaders only see the four walls and the programs of the building from which they lead. Kingdom-based leaders see the four directions of north, south, east and west and look for people whom they can invest themselves in to accelerate the movement of Jesus to the far-reaching parts of the world.
At COMMUNITY, we have exploded the old scoreboard of counting only nickels and noses and are now keeping track of what we call the “family tree.” Annually, each campus is asked to account for the attendance of not just their campus, but of all the campuses and churches they have helped plant and reproduce. A great example comes from our Montgomery Campus. This campus has a 1960s church building that was given to us and seats almost 200 people. Every weekend they have one Saturday night service and two Sunday services and average about 450 in attendance. But, if you look at their “family tree” metric, it averages an outreach of over 1,200 weekly because they have launched two local campuses, as well as a church they planted in Boston.
The motivation to destroy and explode the old scoreboard is all about accomplishing the mission of Jesus. And to accomplish the mission of Jesus (not just where you live, but globally, like Jesus describes in Acts 1:8), there must be movement!
Dave Ferguson is the lead pastor of COMMUNITY an innovative multi-site missional church who is passionate about “helping people find their way back to God.” COMMUNITY has grown from a few college friends to thousands every weekend meeting at 14 locations throughout Chicagoland and was recognized as one of the most influential churches in America. Ferguson provides visionary leadership for NewThing whose dream is to be a catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches. He is an award-winning author of books such as The Big Idea, Exponential, On The Verge and Discover Your Mission Now!.
This article was adapted from the FREE eBook Keeping Score: How to Know If Your Church Is Winning by Dave Ferguson–part of the Exponential Resources Series.