Measuring Success

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that contribute to the success of a church organization. I am not an expert ;) but it seems to me that these are the things that are viewed as marks of success among church organizations.

Number of members

This is the most obvious measure of how a church is doing. The pastor of the church we attend has frequently mentioned that “how big is yours?” is the inevitable question at pastors’ gatherings.


The size of the budget determines what the organization is able to do. It is reflected in the size and quality of the building or campus. The budget also determines the size of staff that is possible which influences the ability to provide services and programs.

The quality of services and programs is dependent on the money available. More money allows for a higher level of investment in children’s programs and facilities and in youth programs and facilities. It also allows for a greater investment in technology which is reflected in the production value of the programs and services.


In a successful church organization, the members are fans. They naturally promote the church because of their excitement and positive feelings about it. Their excitement is also reflected in their willingness to participate as volunteers in the programs and services offered. The involvement of enthusiastic members is the oil that keeps the machinery of the church functioning.


One of the measures of success of a church is how well-known the pastor is in the community and perhaps even at a regional or national level. A charismatic leader has the ability to create a following and to grow the size of a church perhaps to the point where video venues will be necessary. An extremely talented worship team or worship leader can also contribute to the visibility and success of a church.

The Bottom Line

So there you go, lots of people giving their money and time to contribute to the smooth operation and potential influence of the organization.

What do you think?


21 thoughts on “Measuring Success

  1. Funny how broken people being transformed through the grace of Christ into folks who are abiding in Christ isn’t on the list. Why must we try to measure the success of a church? It’s impossible. Great post. ~CT

  2. I do not see what you describe in this post and the previous one as churches at all. They are organizations but to use the term church is a misnomer at best. The fact the people who lead them, and in them, are sincere does not change this fact.

    My experience is that these organizations do not change. All that is going on at Willow Creek exemplifies this. They do their study, discover the problem and use the same methods to attempt to correct the problem.

    Fortunately, there is a new wind of the Spirit blowing. This, too, shall pass.

  3. so what now, Grace? Really… what now? That’s where I live, I mean. I think these things all the time too but I rarely post them or comment because i don’t know the answer to what now. I work in a church i don’t agree with, yet I don’t know for sure that to abandon my post is a loving way to act towards the church members. Nor do i have a better alternative. My daughter wants to be there every week. I dread it most weeks. I don’t hate it all the time, but neither do i believe that what i do is of much real value in the lives of anyone. So, what now? Anybody?

  4. True words. I long – really long – for the church to be a fan of Jesus not Church. However where the Church is competing for the glory I can only think that Jesus is standing outside the Church. Thanks for making me think.

  5. Thanks for your comments CT, traveller, randy, and ali.

    We have created the church we want, both as leaders and as members. You will find very few Christians who don’t aspire to these values of success in church and sincerely believe they are doing it all for Jesus. Even those who organize to become something different are strongly pulled by the forces and expectations of these measurements of success.

    You might not like my answer, but in your situation, I would simply accept that it is a nice Christian organization that you participate in and that your daughter enjoys. Let it be what it is and let go of any expectations about what it is not.

    I would not expect to find fulfillment for your missional vision through that avenue. However in addition to your participation at the church, God may lead you to relationships that nurture the other things in your heart.

    Obviously I don’t have many answers. It is what it is, and it is what most people want.

    You might enjoy kathy escobar’s latest post, linked on my sidebar. She addresses what it is like when you find yourself dissatisfied while others around you are perfectly content with things the way they are.

  6. yes, Grace. that’s exactly where i keep landing- even though i continue to hope to land elsewhere. i have let go of expectations, but still i’m frequently disappointed by what i see and hear, even if it’s what i expect.

  7. “How big is yours” …perhaps that sums it up, I thought only teenage boys in the Jr. High locker room find value in the need to compare but apparrently grown men who are ordained still measure their success by size and claiming ownership.

  8. Lol! I like Kimberly’s comment!

    I’ve been thinking about how growing one’s “sphere of influence” is equated with ministry success. Unfortunately, those who are already a natural part of one’s everyday-life ‘sphere of influence’ (immediate family, extended family, friends) pay the price of being ignored while one tries to build a different, and bigger (and supposedly more important) ‘sphere of influence.’

    It’s tragic, actually. Why aren’t we happy with the sphere God has already given us? Why do we feel the need to build ministries/churches so that we can influence different people than the ones He’s placed right in front of us?

    What if all my spiritual giftedness is for my family, my neighbors, my friends (both Xian and non), and those I come into contact with in my daily life? What if *that* group of people are the ones God has sent me to? No glamour, no celebrity, no ‘successful’ edifice, no building a name and reputation.

    Like the story of the Good Samaritan. Here’s these guys who happened to be walking on a journey. And they come happen to come across someone in need. Who’s the hero of the story in Jesus’s eyes? The one that recognized ministry happens in everyday life with the one who happens to be in front of you at the moment.

  9. I don’t think we need to let the pendulum swing too far – numbers aren’t evil if they are used to encourage, celebrate, etc. Jesus referred to missional work as a ‘harvest’ – He spoke of 30, 60, 100-fold returns. Both of my grandfathers were farmers, and they kept a pretty good eye on what was going on with the crops. A good harvest was very encouraging, and often called for celebration.

    Luke encourages and celebrates with numbers in the book of Acts: “… those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to their number that day” (2:41); “…And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (2:47); “… The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (6:7) … so what do you think? Was Luke impressed with numerical growth?

    I think as long as the mission is Christ-centered and not church-centered, there is nothing wrong with encouraging and celebrating growth. Apparently someone is even tracking this in China and India where the model is totally different.

    I guess my other comment would be, if you’re dissatisfied with the institutional church, don’t just drop out (“I still believe in Jesus and try to serve Him in my daily routine – I just don’t do church anymore.”) God’s design is community and the binder is relationships. I would encourage any to get some good discipleship material (e.g. Neil Cole’s ‘Search & Rescue’) and help develop a church community that is more fitting to your paradigm.

  10. always love the thoughts you stir up, grace. i think of this particular issue all the time when i see churches who are booming–like really booming–and all of these things are in place–numbers, loyal excited people because they are totally into listening to and following a charistmatic leader, amazing programs that makes people happy, like they are getting what they are “supposed to get from church.” it’s all so nutty to see and witness, especially when people need help, like real help. guess where they find it? not there…they call the little teeny church with no money, no building, no nothing…except a heart…i have said to multiple people: i find it very sad to hear that in a church of 6,000 people, where you serve and help and offer your time, that you have no connection and can’t find people to help you move or take you to a doctor appointment when you have cancer. yeah, we need new measures of success, that’s for sure.

  11. mark,
    Most frustrating to me is the across-the-board assumption that this is the biblical way to disciple, follow Jesus, and to be the church.

    I can totally relate to that…knowing, but still disappointed in the reality.

    The business model is an almost-guaranteed recipe for failure of the leader at least by kingdom standards.

    Loved your comment and your ability to zero in on the truth. Of course it is tough to build a successful organization around the kind of ministry you described. ;)

    I would agree about the numbers if we were measuring the impact to the kingdom. Sadly measurements usually reflect a smaller and more territorial mindset than that.

    I have some great relationships, but at the moment, they don’t make sense in the context of the church building. While I am open to new paradigms of community, I don’t really trust my ability to not recreate my personalized preference of the same-old same-old (see the next post).

    I really appreciate you. thank you for all that you do and share.

    But can we be better than this?

  12. On backyardmissionary, they have some amusing, if thought-provoking alternative ways of measuring success. It starts:

    1. The number of cigarette butts in the church parking lot.
    2. The number of adoptions people in the church have made from local foster care.
    3. The number of pictures on the church wall of unwed mothers holding their newborn babies in their arms for the first time.

    How about that to get us thinking?

    You can read it here:

  13. carlos,
    Thanks for sharing that link. It’s a great alternative for measuring results.

    davida :)

    jeff and mark,
    Yes, people sometimes get overlooked in the ABC’s or even worse, viewed as potential assets or liabilities.

  14. Grace:

    People ???

    You mean there are people behind the numbers ?

    Hopefully, people realize that was sarcastic :)

    The asset/liability is a very intriguing comment. It sent chills up my spine. I “hated” when I hear individuals put into those categories and what/if we could do with them – the “cater” aspect.

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