One of the four disciplines in The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is creating a compelling scorecard. In order to do this we need to have good accurate measurements. The preceding discipline in 4DX is finding Lead Measures instead of Lag Measures. Lead Measures measure the things that we actually have leverage over, rather than the results that we hope for, but cannot simply do or create. When we find our lead measures, the compelling scorecard is where we measure them.
When it comes to ministries though, we face the dilemma of the work of God vs the work of humanity complication. I remember a church meeting where the visiting teacher asked us all how to make disciples. One of our church members stated with complete seriousness, "We can't do that. Only God can do that." The salvations that begin lives of discipleship and both initiated, fueled, and completed by God (the Author and perfector of our faith). Yet we still have a role in our own faith, as well as the faith of others. If we simply avoid this mystery instead of engage it, we may end up abdicating our roles in making disciples and giving all the credit, as well as all the blame to God.
We need to dive into that mystery in order to find our place in it. Whether great or small, what we do really does matter, particularly in the lives of those we, and God, are trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ. In many cases, particularly where volunteer work is involved, we are hesitant to try to "measure" any of the work. We don't want to offend those donating their time, money, and effort. When there is paid staff, on the other hand, we often are much quicker to lay the blame, because we are paying for their services. In either case though, there needs to be clear measurements for ministry and in both cases there usually is not. We are looking for end results... we don't care how we get there.
That's no way to run a ministry or supervise leaders. There needs to be clear direction on what they are expected to do. The results are in God's hands. (1 Corinthians 3:5-6) We need to find those lead measurements and create a compelling scorecard so that we all know when we are doing the work right and when we are not. And we need to make those measurements without shame.
Our measurements for Fresh Expressions should be at least partially based around the 4 functions of a Fresh Expression:
UP - seeking God's presence
IN - growing in Fellowship
OUT - reaching out in service and love
OF - connected to a local congregation for support and accountability
Let's look at what some lead measurements might be for each of these items.
UP - Testimonies shared, glory sightings (where we have seen God at work in our lives), prayers offered, scriptures shared, questions for/about God
IN - New friends made, repeat visits and regular attendance from new visitors, prayer requests shared among the community, needs lifted up (especially on behalf of others, not just our own requests), any kind of way we are learning to love one another well
OUT - Opportunities taken to share the Gospel with others, opportunities to love those outside the community by taking care of physical needs, listening to them in their emotional needs, any form of service in Christian love, particularly when we can share our "WHY" of Jesus with them.
OF - Percent of connection with the local church (Note: this number is not ideally 100%. If 100% of your Fresh Expression attend your local church you are not reaching people outside your church. However, if there is only 1 person from you local church and you have 50 in your Fresh Expression, they will likely feel disconnected from the local body. I suspect somewhere between 10-20% of the total population is more helpful in maintaining a strong enough connection to the local church for support and accountability) More lead measures for OF that help you attain a good connection with the local church may be: how often the leaders participate in the ministries of the local church, how often they visit and bring a friend from the Fresh Expression, how often the local church pastor or other leader is invited to attend the Fresh Expression. In general, I suspect we do better measuring invites rather than attendance.
Since the forms of Fresh Expression are as varied as the people they reach, measuring these criteria primarily by number are of limited use to the local FX leaders. We are not in competition with the other Fresh Expressions around us. We are seeking to be faithful in our unique context. The numbers are helpful for those in higher leadership advocating on behalf of these ministries, but they may not be the most helpful in guiding the ministry to grow in its work. Those numbers invite ego investment and the pride and shame that go along with them.
Another way to measure those ministries, outside of numbers, is with a red light, yellow light, green light system.
Red light in a ministry indicates that this particular aspect is not happening at all, or is being presented in a way by leaders that is not yet connecting with the community.
Yellow light in a ministry indicates that this particular aspect is happening, but not regularly, or only with great effort.
Green light in a ministry indicates that this particular aspect is happening regularly, and perhaps even without prompting from the leadership.
If we go through our list of UP, IN, OUT, and OF, applying the red-yellow-green lights to them, I can share that we have a green light for UP and OUT, but our IN is more of a yellow, moving to red light, and our OF is a solid yellow. That tells me that we need to put more strategic effort and investment into our IN ministries and perhaps find a motivational boost to lift our OF ministries from the place we are stuck in. That is compelling measurement that instructs and exhorts us without shame.
What color lights are your UP, IN, OUT, and OF?
Fresh Expression National Gathering 2018
This past March 14-17, I attended the Fresh Expressions National Gathering in Reston, VA, along with several other conference leaders from New Church Development and our Fresh Expressions team. Here are a few quick insights I took away from the conference as a whole. There were more detailed insights as well which I will save for later or be glad to discuss with you.
First, I was encouraged by how well the UMC of Kentucky was represented there. There were other, bigger UM Conferences that had not developed Fresh Expressions quite as much as we have here in Kentucky. The FX National Team had several KY members as speakers and teachers - especially with the new Expressiones Divinas, the Fresh Expressions being developed specifically for Hispanic/Latino ministries. I had the opportunity to share strategies with leaders of churches much larger than my own and even some larger conferences, such as the Virginia Baptists - which have churches all across the US and Canada.1 I received some affirmation of our desire to bring together our FX leaders in KY in a somewhat similar kind of gathering, in order to better network, pray together, share best practices, and learn about the challenges we all face in a front-lines kind of ministry like Fresh Expression.
We faced a little discouragement for some of the same reasons that we were encouraged. I had hoped to learn a clearer, step-by-step process to help us grow Fresh Expressions across KY. We participated in a full-day session specifically on that subject, led by Phil Potter - the director of Fresh Expressions in the UK.
His presentation did not give step-by-step directions, but, true to the nature of Fresh Expressions, he told the narrative of how they developed in England and brought out the values they discovered have led them along the way... values like Investment, Integration, and Innovation. There was a lot of wisdom to be gleaned in this history, but we were a little frustrated that it was not easier to apply directly to our context.
My work in leading Fresh Expressions across the conference these past 6 months has focused in on one task in particular: defining our reach. Defining is a term that is often used in a restrictive or restraining way. I'm actually trying to take the opposite approach, especially when working alongside local churches. I hope to broaden our perspective of the mission field to which we have been sent to work.
What I have discovered though is that those "fields" are not necessarily geographical areas anymore. Instead our "fields" have become networks of relationships that may or may not share geographical similarities. For instance, my church has potentially disciple-making relationships with people across several counties, as well as China and Pakistan. Our reach sometimes goes well beyond the area surrounding our local church building.
Amidst this work of helping local church leaders define their reach, we are moving from permission giving to blessing. This is occurring both within the local churches, as well as among conference leadership as well. Fresh Expressions has grown in popularity across our conference, but there is still a lot of confusion about what it means for us and how to get started.
Why does this move from permission giving to blessing matter? Both the conference leadership and especially the local churches provide important support and resources for Fresh Expressions. Yes, money is involved... but I'm learning that there are a lot of other needs as well. Serving dinners and leading some bible lessons is one thing, but what happens when you are requested to do a funeral for one of your FX members and you have not had pastoral training? What happens if the theological questions your people grapple with are outside of your own experience and expertise? (This could apply to pastors as well.) Perhaps the most important part of this is to maintain relationships within the body, and specifically those connections between ministries that work better together than they do apart.
What will this entail? The patient work of redefining leadership. We've already had some conference leadership transition in the past few years and with more and more retirements along the way and important debates about how the UM Church will be connected in the years to come, I expect there to be a lot more.
The bigger issue with groups as large as ours is that we, like sheep, like to have a central leadership that points us in the direction we need to go, rather than becoming leaders ourselves and following the Holy Spirit moving on the margins of our membership. As I mentioned above, it's just more natural to think about who we need to reach that lives close to our church, rather than thinking about how we can be making disciples and transforming lives in other countries or even with local people who live in a culture very different from our own. For those of us with pioneering spirits, it still takes awhile for us to wrap our own minds and hearts around that ministry... consider then how much more patient then we should be with those who have not experienced ministry in the trenches. Moving from permission giving, to blessing is being the spokes that continually connect the hub with the outer edge of the wheel so that God moves us together without us shattering apart and breaking down, and in this way, we actually make healthy room to grow as disciples, as churches, and as the people of God.
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
All Anger Bible Children Community Culture Disciplines Fear Fresh Expressions Funerals Generations Grace Hurt Injury Jesus Law Leadership Longevity Ministry Models Perseverance Politics Preaching Reactions Scripture Time Truth Values VBS