How do we measure discipleship? It is relatively easy to measure church attendance, giving or small-group participation, but how do we measure church members becoming more like Christ? The Willow Creek Reveal Study pointed out that church activity doesn’t necessarily lead to fully devoted followers of Christ, but are there activities we can measure to help our congregation grow?
I think there are six vital areas that point to a growing disciple:
1. Serving in a local church. Church attendance without service does not grow me as a disciple. To grow, I have to serve generously with my time, talent and treasure.
2. Praying consistently. This is so obvious that it seems to get overlooked. A growing disciple follows Jesus’ pattern of consistent, heartfelt prayer.
3. Reading the Bible daily. Separate studies by the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway on discipleship came to the same conclusion: The single biggest factor in growing as a disciple is reading the Bible every day. It’s the magic pill of discipleship.
4. Engaging in biblical community. Discipleship throughout the Bible is always in context of community. Being in a small group does not guarantee discipleship, but not being in biblical community prevents it.
5. Actively involved in missional outreach. Biblical disciples engage in Kingdom transformation in their home, their community and their world.
6. Developing other disciples. Jesus’ final command was very clear: Go make disciples. Every growing disciple of Christ develops other disciples.
I’d like to suggest the following tool to help determine the temperature of discipleship in your congregation (and in your own life). I have used the acronym SPREAD to make the six areas easier to remember. Your church attenders may need some additional information to understand how you define each area in your context.
Create a simple survey with the following questions. Give the survey and a pen to everyone who attends one weekend, and take time during the service to fill out the survey out together.
As a growing disciple of Jesus, I … (circle all that apply)
- Serve my local church generously with my time, talent and resources.
- Pray consistently.
- Read my Bible almost every day.
- Engage regularly in a biblical community (small group).
- Actively participate in missional outreach.
- Develop other disciples.
The first time you take the survey serves as a baseline for discipleship. Use the results to celebrate where the congregation is strong and to focus on helping them grow in areas where they are weak.
Choose one area that seems to be weak across the board and focus for the next quarter on growing in that area as a church. Retake the survey every three months for a year to measure progress.