Leader to Leader, Ministry

Measure Well to Have a Breakthrough in Your Community

January 23, 2015 | Posted by Oscar Benavides

As leaders, we must always be asking the question, “Is what we are doing in our church really making a difference in our community?” There is always another program or outreach that needs our attention. How do we know whether we should stick to a program or which ones should we end?

The answer to this question depends on what we are measuring. Naturally we will measure that which is tangible like numbers, but that is not always a true measure of success. If we tend have only a few people in our program, we might measure a program by one or two stories of deep impact but refuse to see the need to expand. But integrity pushes us to seek honest feedback, to seek a more accurate evaluation. We know that Jesus wants both deep and wide impact, like a mustard seed. We must learn how to measure well.

Seven years ago I joined LINC (Lutheran Inter-city Network Coalition) North Texas and had some very difficult decisions to make. We had too many small programs and not enough resources to fund them. In addition, many programs were good programs but did not seem to have the impact we were hoping would affect the community. We had a choice of either investing more in the programs or closing them down.

I learned from wonderful trainers in ministry that in order for us to have real breakthrough, we had to see significant, strategic and sustainable change. Of course, those words are subject to interpretation too. For us significant meant that we had to have a large net of people we were actually seeing and reaching. We made the hard decision to end several programs that were only reaching a few families and the impact was shallow.

Another aspect of breakthrough was that a program had to be strategic. For us that meant two things: one is that a program had to have a clear move of people toward discipleship type of relationships and two, it had to target the deeper systemic problems in that target group. What we mean by targeting systemic problems means that we want to not just fix the systems but address the root issues of relational brokenness, poverty and sin.

We therefore traded an after-school program that only saw a few kids and had no affect on parents to an in-school program that saw hundreds of students and had a real parent impact element that brought the possibility of discipleship and that impacted family relationships.

Finally, we learned to measure our programs’ sustainability. We must ask if the program is something we can afford with volunteers, staff and finances for a long period of time?  We also measured if the program’s impact is sustainable.

Our SALI program in public schools has proven to be an amazing breakthrough program that has replaced two previous programs. We serve over 1,000 public school families every year. But it is also deep; we have disciple dozens of families and have launched a church out of this program.

With so few resources, time and energy, we all need to be good stewards of our God given resources to impact the community with the Kingdom of God. May the Lord give you wisdom to measure well.

Oscar Benavides
Rev. Oscar Benavides is the Executive Director of LINC North Texas in Dallas and is a small group leader at the LCEF’s Fall Leadership Conference in San Antonio. He is also the community development consultant for the Five Two Network. www.lincnt.org