Can Churches Measure Spiritual Growth?

Spiritual Growth Ted Blog

My name is Ted Wlazlowski, and I am one of the church consultants at FellowshipOne. For 15 years as a pastor and consultant, I have been obsessed with helping churches translate mission into practical, effective steps. However, a problem arises when we consider the word “effective.” Effective how? To whom? What determines if a church is, in fact, effective?

This is where understanding mission is crucial. The best church mission statements are derived from some combination of the Great Commission and Greatest Commandment (c.f. Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 22:34-40). This type of mission statement boils down to:

  1. Make disciples
  2. Love God
  3. Love people.

How does a church know if it is succeeding in doing these things? This is where it gets tricky again. The easy answer for most people is, “count something.” The problem is that things that are easy to see and measure, like attendance and giving, do not necessarily correlate to success in these areas.

Think of it this way—is it necessarily true that:

More attendees + More giving = Growing discipleship + Increased love x (God + People)?

I hope the clear answer is no! Increased attendance and giving might be the result of discipleship, but are poor predictors of it.

Thankfully, there are ways to track the progress of individuals in assimilation and spiritual growth.

Think About Process

Getting connected to a new church is daunting. By facilitating that process well, church leaders provide a systematic way to connect newcomers to the life of your church where spiritual growth can occur. Most current definitions of assimilation include:

  • regular church attendance
  • involvement in a small group (or class)
  • volunteering

Take those assimilation points and reverse engineer how you want people to engage in these areas. When this process is defined, people’s progress can be tracked by dates. Then, those dates can be used to figure out how well individuals are progressing through the process as well as church-wide efficiency in getting people connected.

Growth in Steps

Gauging spiritual growth is admittedly the hardest part of all. You might remember the Grinch who Stole Christmas and the x-ray machine that rolls in to reveal that his heart is “two sizes too small.”

We don’t have a machine that lets us see the condition of everyone’s heart (and I’m grateful for that!), but we can take a look at the milestones of spiritual growth and how someone is progressing through those. In a typical evangelical environment, these might include: an initial profession of faith, baptism, and new believer follow-up mentoring or classes. In liturgical congregations, there may be a focus on sacraments and catechism. The unique needs of different ministries demand a flexible solution.

While the “Heart X-Ray” isn’t a reality yet, there are ways to think about effective ministry that go beyond attendance and giving.FellowshipOne Insights provides clear pictures of the custom engagement and spiritual growth metrics your church wants to track. You can look at the big picture for a holistic view of your church, or drill down into particular areas to get a more refined view of a specific ministry’s health.

ted blog

Whether you’re a current FellowshipOne partner, or looking for a new way to view important data, one of our church consultants would be happy discuss how FellowshipOne Insights can help you get better data for the evaluation of your church’s most important ministry decisions.