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Flourishing Update - March 11, 2020

How Do Canadian Protestant Churches Evaluate Ministry “Success”?

Heather Card is the President of Five Smooth Stones Consulting. She is currently completing a professional doctorate in Practical Theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario

A few weeks ago, I went to a musical tribute for country gospel music with my young adult son. He is really into country music and I’m just old enough to remember most of the hymns the troop performed. We both enjoyed the evening. The theatre group did a fantastic job of the set—the inside of the old schoolhouse theatre was transformed into an old-fashioned country church with a pulpit, piano, and organ. They even had one of those wooden register boards at the front that showed the hymns to be sung as well as the attendance and offering numbers from the last week.

Offering and attendance. Counting numbers.

For many years these measures were the primary indicators of church health. And while there has been movement away from using attendance and giving as the sole measures of success, results from research with 512 pastors and church board members from Canadian Protestant churches reveal that there is still more work to be done in this area.

In this research survey, ministry evaluation referred to the process for understanding how well the church as a whole was fulfilling its mission. Examined from the perspective of the governing board of the church, which also included the lead pastor, the project focused on understanding characteristics of both the evaluation process employed and evaluation criteria used.

This research provided several key insights:

  • Board leadership teams are often unsure how to conduct a ministry evaluation or do not prioritize ministry evaluation on their agenda

  • More than half either do not have specific ministry evaluation criteria or indicate that they need to make more progress in this area

  • Many board leadership teams are not incorporating theological principles and spiritual practices into their evaluation process

  • Small churches struggle more than their larger counterparts in many areas

It is interesting to note that many of the evaluation criteria identified in this study are quantitative in nature. Attendance and offering numbers are easily counted and analyzed as are the number of decisions for Christ and the percentage of volunteers engaged in ministry. However, determining whether there has been progress in terms of outcomes—those areas where qualitative methods must be used—is much more challenging and mentioned much less frequently.

The most common criteria identified were:

  • attendance or numerical growth (31%)

  • discipleship and maturing faith (25%)

  • leading people to Christ (23%)

  • offerings and financial health (22%)

  • criteria connected to mission, vision, purpose (21%)

  • volunteer engagement in ministry (20%)

Perhaps these survey results on ministry evaluation are not so surprising. Many church governance resources do a stellar job of educating board members about the fiduciary nature of church board work; however, the topic of ministry evaluation is underdeveloped both methodologically and theologically. Few resources written for church board leaders provide a clear outline for the process of ministry evaluation, tools for establishing criteria with an outcome focus, or a robust integration of Scripture and theology. In my view, one of the biggest challenges will be to provide accessible resources suitable in the small church context.

Clearly, there is more work to be done.


At the recent Pastor Conference held at Ambrose University, we had a lightning round where participants shared a number of resources that they are using for discipleship:



Home Created "Sermon Based" questions and videos- from the conviction that we need to be "doers of the word" and not just "hearers of the word", I publish printed questions for reflection alone or with others, as well as a "3 minute Discussion Starter" video and a "10 minute Coach" video to encourage/support.

Helps give a theological foundation for engaging, integrating and empowering single adults in your church

  • church provides resources (variety) to choose from depending on House Church participant preferences/needs

  • what is being taught on Sundays

  • deepens connections in the community and creates new friendships

  • provides accountability and encouragement in the small group

  • Houses Church leaders receive training


Upcoming Opportunities

The Table - May 28 & 29, 2020

Passing ideas and practical advice between planters, practitioners, and their teams at McMaster Divinity College: With panels, workshops, and storytelling our goal is to help planters and starters form and deepen their new and existing ideas and communities; learning from and connecting with other planters and starters. Register Here

Visit WayBase to:

  • Identify low-income areas and see which churches or ministries are present to serve those families,

  • Visualize where specific cultural groups are living and whether there are helpful ministries located nearby that can connect with that culture,

  • See graphs representing the Christian and demographic information of an area they select

  • And much more.

  • Checkout WayBase by clicking here.

The New Leaf Arts Tour Network. We have been working on an idea to connect our network that is spread across Canada using the arts. Innovation and creation are marks of both the entrepreneurial spirit and the arts, and since creative people tend to hang around New Leaf we want to give artists among us a path across Canada to share their art with the Network. Click here for more information.

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