Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Measuring Faith in a Faith Venture

I’ve written recently about the importance of measuring performance in a faith venture. In the past, our organization has relied on measurements like REDF’s Social Return on Investment as a way of capturing the social benefits of our mission. It is mostly straight-forward to measure social change in terms of the welfare dollars saved and the decline in rates of recidivism. But as a faith-based organization, we’ve struggled with measuring the “faith” side of our performance.

A couple of months ago, I read the article “Rediscovering Social Innovation” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on how social innovation leads to positive social change. At the time, I found myself wishing for a study that would determine the added benefit of faith in a social enterprise. Over the years, we’ve staked our reputation on the idea that faith provides a much needed ingredient to help people overcome significant obstacles to employment success related to homelessness, felony conviction, and addictions.

For most faith based organization, measuring faith is limited to determining the number of professions of faith or looking at other externals like church attendance. Not long ago, I had a conversation with a leader in a large domestic faith organization that was lamenting its insistence on tracking conversion rates. We both agreed that such a number can be an important part of measuring but it doesn’t capture the heart of faith’s impact on a person.

I think whether you are sharing your faith with someone outside the faith or discipling someone in the faith, the aim remains the same. We point people to Jesus Christ as the One who’s Lordship adds grace, meaning and direction. I believe that a person’s exposure to Jesus’ teachings can be measured over the course of time. Instead of looking to professions of faith, one can assign numerical rankings to a spectrum of questions looking at the spiritual depth of a person’s life. With that hypothesis, we are experimenting with a new approach that uses the following questions below. What are your thoughts about this approach to the difficulty of measuring the faith component of our mission?

On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not true at all and 10 being definitely true, answer the following:

1. I see God’s presence in my life.
2. I understand that God loves me.
3. I try to follow Jesus in all aspects of my daily life.
4. I make room for praying a listening to God at home and at work.
5. I know that my actions sometimes hurt others.
6. I apologize easily to God and others when I do something that hurts them.
7. I read the Bible.
8. I meet with someone regularly who helps me grow in my spiritual walk.
9. I see the fruit of the Spirit in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
10. I attend church on a regular basis to worship God and spend time with other Jesus followers.

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