Measuring Disciples By Fruit

One of the questions we’ll never have a complete answer to (since only God knows the depths of our hearts) is how much are disciples growing in our parishes/ministries? Yet even though there’s no empirical formula for this, we shouldn’t shy from some ways of measuring aspects of discipleship. Assessment (or measuring) helps us evaluate initiatives and programs, it helps us identify where to place finite resources, and it helps us re-imagine what’s clearly not working for our typical parishioners. If we care about souls, we should care enough to assess our actions in ministry.

Here’s a concrete follow up to a previous post on measuring discipleship growth from Cary Nieuwhof. Nieuwhof offers a Biblically-centered approach to looking for fruit, centered on Paul’s descriptions in his Letter to the Galatians 5:19-24. How to probe for this fruit? Interviews. Anonymous surveys. Opportunities for testimony. In various combinations, these could help give you a sense of if there’s movement within those you serve. Using combinations is important–if you simply ask for volunteers, you’ll likely capture affirmations–but not those on the margins.

Think about your parish or ministry. How is the “fruit” measurement among:

  • those initiated or received into full communion through RCIA (year after year…)
  • those on your “registered parishioner” list who rarely attend Mass
  • those who attend adult faith formation
  • those involved in liturgical service (i.e. musicians, lectors, etc.)
  • and so forth…

Start probing. You’ll probably find unexpected blessings and encouragement, as well as areas ripe for improvement!

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