January 25, 2017

Charity, Justice and Metrics

I was recently asked how to measure the effectiveness of outreach that congregations do. My response included three things. To begin, we have to clarify what we mean by "outreach." Outreach is often a term we lump together work that could be defined as charity, justice and evangelism. These are all important but different things. At the same time, I think they are helpful for answering a question about metrics.

1) Charity: Being charitable or merciful, doing acts of kindness-however described-is a historic and biblically-rooted spiritual practice. It is not justice. It does not seek to change unjust conditions. It is simply an act of self-less love. How do you measure effective charity? By how many people in your congregation are engaged in acts of kindness to the marginalized. Any committee or team that is responsible for coordinating the charitable work of a congregation should aim for every active Christian in that congregation to be engaged in charity as spiritual discipline.

2) Justice: As I said above, justice seeks to change unjust conditions. Charity tends to alleviate the pain of unjust conditions but does reverse them. You can bring lunch to an unemployed woman under the poverty line. But a job moves towards justice for her. An outreach committee or team should be asking themselves, are our efforts among the marginalized changing unjust conditions or simply offering temporary alleviation of injustice? If, for example, you work with the poor and some are getting out of poverty than you are contributing to justice. And a side note, justice won't be found without the establishment of relationships that offer dignity to those who serve and those served. It happens when the have's realize they need the have-not's as much as the other way around.

3) Evangelism: You cannot read Acts without noticing incredible growth. Considering how much mention of economic sharing, healing, as well as, orphans and widows it is safe to say that a significant portion of this exponential growth was from those on the margins--the sick, poor and outcast. If you want to measure how effective your outreach efforts are, then measure how many you serve genuinely enter into Christian community. Not through coercion but through the equitable and winsome invitation of the good news of God. Chances are these folks may not feel at home in upper class congregations, I would argue then that it makes sense to start missional communities among these people in which they can lead and shape new Christian communities.

How many of your members are engaged in charity?
How many lives are genuinely changed through your work for justice?
How many respond to these acts as an embodiment of the gospel?
Have "small batch" Christian communities emerged due to your work?

Those are metrics that I think work. What do you think?

I wrote about this a couple other times. You can find those articles here.