Matters of measurement within the development field and more specifically within Christian ministry have often been the focus of many unsolved arguments. Opinions vary greatly as to whether or not we should try to measure the impact or outcomes of our well intentioned efforts to serve the orphan, the widow, the hungry, the oppressed or the “other”. Two excellent arguments against measuring the true outcomes of ministry efforts;
1) This is simply the work of the Lord that is creating internal change within an individual. You cannot measure the way God changes someone’s heart.
2) By taking measurements of our desired outcomes, we are asserting our own agendas and attempts to control rather than allowing God to guide the process and the outcomes.
While the arguments above certainly have some merit, the good that comes with impact measurement far outweighs the bad. Jonathan Mitchel works with Concentric Development and offers, “We cannot measure the work of the Holy Spirit and should be very cautious about measuring the fruit of that [work]. Rather, I think our energies ought to be put into measuring whether our efforts have led to the opportunities for the Holy Spirit to work.” Developing indicators that gauge success is an incredibly important process that any organization should consider before taking their first step towards doing the good work that we have been called to do. We are called to be good stewards of the resources that we have been given. Without specific objectives, goals and methods for evaluating our successes along the way, we are unable to tell whether or not we have been able to fruitfully multiply what we have been given.
Too often organizations will settle for simply measuring and evaluating inputs. These are the activities that they do in order to affect change, but the activities are not the desired outcome in and of themselves. For example, if we have an organization that seeks to combat homelessness we might share about the number of homes or shelters we have constructed for the homeless or the number of people we have connected to a social service worker. We should give thanks to God for these things, but we should not stop there if we are to be good stewards to God, the homeless and to the donor’s who have provided us with funds needed for such works. We would need to ask if we are really making a difference in minimizing or even eliminating homelessness. How many people still sleep on the streets in our community and why? Are the homeless taking advantage of the services and resources we are offering? Have the majority of people that are using our services seen an increase in their ability to access jobs or refuse substances? And at the back of our mind we should always be asking ourselves, “Are we successfully targeting the true causes of homelessness?”
At Edify we do measure the loans that we give to schools and the trainings that we give to teachers and school administrators, but we do not stop there. It’s essential for us to continue asking how those loans and trainings have made made a true difference in the lives of the school owners and teachers who ultimately impact the lives of thousands of students. If we have great inputs, but aren’t seeing indications of the results we hoped for, then we can adjust what we so that we can faithfully give our very best. By asking the hard questions and being held accountable to such questions we can raise the standard amidst an entire sector so that we may all offer our very best and multiply the talents that we have been entrusted.