“It will be worth what we’re spending if only one person gets saved.” That comment came from a deacon when I was serving a previous church. He was referring to an expensive project we were undertaking. I nodded in agreement because his sentiment seemed so right. But after thinking about it some more, I decided he was wrong. Here’s why:
- Good stewardship demands good planning. Throwing money at a project without careful planning can’t be justified whether it’s done by a church or government. Even if a church has plenty of money (most small ones don’t) adequate planning must be done to assess need, plan action, and specify outcome.
- Return should be proportional to investment. For instance, we did a mailer to our entire area for a Christmas program 3 years ago. The direct mail piece, postage, and other expenses ran about $2,500. We mailed to 5,000 households expecting a 1-2% “return” of folks actually attending the program — in other words, 50-to-100 new people attending. Our normal attendance for events like that is about 100. Our actual attendance that night was 188. So, we were right on target with our goal. The next year we did a similar mailout which produced very little response. We dropped the mailers after they did not produce the results we sought.
- Limited resources should be employed to produce the highest result. Often there are cheaper ways to accomplish the same thing. Rather than use a mailing list or service, have your church members develop your own mailing list. Or better still, have your members mail personalized cards or invitations to their circle of influence.
Dr. Donald McGavran founded the church growth movement out of a desire to see specific results and measurable outcomes from field mission work. McGavran thought there should be some accountability of effort-to-outcome on the mission field. I’m not sure how Dr. McGavran would have answered the question “Is it worth it if only one person gets saved?” but I think he would have wanted to fix a system that only produced one convert in the face of disproportional expenses. What do you think? I realize I’m going to get lots of comments on this one, so please be kind. 🙂