ASSESSMENT & Measurement: So What’s The Difference? Everything!

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/16/15.

An interview in “Christianity Today” with management researcher Jim Collins started me thinking about how some things cannot be measured, but they can be assessed.  I often direct my students to this article to help them create assessable evaluations for their final papers,

Jim Collins said that a problem today with non-profits is, “…being unclear about your goals.… Your goals don’t have to be quantifiable, but they do have to be describable. Some leaders try to insist, ‘The only acceptable goals are measurable,’ but that’s actually an undisciplined statement. Lots of goals—beauty, quality, life change, love—are worthy but not quantifiable. But you do have to be able to tell if you’re making progress. For a church, a goal might be: Young people bring other young people here unprompted. Do they talk about the church with their friends? You may not be able to measure that, but you can assess it.”

I think Collins is on to something here.

He is saying that while some things like “growth in maturity” (Acts 2:42) are not measurable, they can to be “assessed” or “described.”  Measurement means we can put a precise number to something.  I think we all agree that no one, except God, can put a precise measurement on a person’s “level of spiritual maturity.”

But, I think we would all agree that we can “assess” or “describe” progress of “growth of maturity” if a church is increasingly more passionate about “the apostles’ teaching (bible-study) and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Thus, “assessing” growth in maturity is exactly what we are trying to do by measuring the growth in percentages of the congregation involved in Bible-focused groups.  This measurement I call the Composite Maturation Number (A House Divided, p. 209), and it is an “assessment” of the goal of growing a church in maturity.  Thus, we are not measuring precisely “growth in maturity,” but we are assessing progress toward it.

I hope you see that what we are using are “assessments” of unmeasurable goals of maturity, unity and favor.  But, these assessments can, as Jim Collins says, “tell if you’re making progress.”

My hope is that through such assessments all of you are increasingly aware if “you’re making progress.”

NOTE: In the following books I have created and updated church measurement tools that measure four types of church growth, following Luke’s pattern in Acts 2:42-47.  For more info see these chapters or “search” for keywords such as “maturation” in this wiki.

Cure for the Common Church, (Wesleyan Publishing House), chapter “Chapter 6: How Does a Church Grow Learners,” pp. 101-123.
> ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 8: Measure 4 Types of Church Growth,” pp. 139-159.
> Growth By Accident, Death By Planning (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 7: Missteps with Evaluation,” pp. 97-108/
> A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press), “Chaper 10: Evaluate Your Success,” pp. 202-221.