Gil Rendle in his book Doing the Math of Mission writes:
Let’s begin with the simple recognition of the necessity of counting as a responsibility of leadership.
One definition of leadership is the ability to draw an accurate and honest picture of reality.
In most contexts this cannot be done without counting.
Despite the importance of counting many pastors have an aversion to doing the “math of mission” especially when it comes to budgets, butts, and buildings (the traditional big three). There’s good reason for this aversion since counting those numbers rarely reveals missional health.
So, what numbers should be counted to identify missional health? A good place to begin is with three numbers every CRCNA congregation reports to the Yearbook. They include persons enfolded through evangelism, number of children baptized, and persons transferring in from non-CRC’s. The Church Renewal Lab has labeled the sum of these numbers as a congregation’s Church Vitality Index (CVI) [evangelism + baptisms + non-CRC transfers = CVI].
Each of the above numbers highlights an important element in the missional life of a congregation. The number coming through evangelism tells if a congregation is Gospel-centered, has members trained in sharing their faith and is connected with near-neighbors. The number coming through infant baptism tells if a congregation is ministering effectively to next generation families. The number transferring from non-CRCs tells if a church is non-insular and creating an atmosphere of exceptional hospitality.
The Church Renewal team has tracked congregational CVI’s in the CRCNA for the past decade and has concluded that a CVI of 30 or more persons a year (or 10% of membership) demonstrates hopeful signs of missional health. A CVI of 40 or more indicates unusual missional vitality and a CVI of 50 or more places a congregation among a small handful of leaders in our denomination when it comes to missional passion.
If you are interested in seeing your congregation’s CVI numbers simply contact the Church Renewal Lab team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that CVI numbers are a “lagging indicator.” In other words, they reveal, after the fact, things that are true of a church. They underscore the statement, “We are perfectly structured to get the results we are already getting.” Changing a church’s CVI score doesn’t happen by wishing it were so. Changing CVI demands changing congregational culture and strategic thinking.