Are we measuring the right things?

by Steven Harris, via Flickr/Creative Commons:

At the end of school years, we spend a lot of time tallying up. Our awards reflect our focus on what kinds of things we are measuring.  We give awards for years of service, scholarships for academic performance, and seat time requirements fulfilled. In Christian institutions how can we get closer to measuring the right things?

As we seek Biblical direction on this issue we encounter a different expectation as shown in the ministry of Jesus. Length of service doesn’t seem to matter in the end – Jesus told the thief who repented that he would be with him in Paradise that day. Knowledge and biblical understanding, as demonstrated by the spiritual leaders of Jesus day didn’t cut it – he wanted their hearts. Power and prestige was rejected and broken by Jesus – he made it clear his kingdom was not about such things, even though his disciples expected Jesus to use power to the very end.

So what should we be concerned about, focus on, expect and measure? As we think of students let’s consider the phrases “works of art” and “fruit on the journey.”

Len Stob makes these observations in the draft of his upcoming book:

Whereas most businesses know how to measure the quality of their product or service, the Christian school doesn’t really know what society and culture will look like in fifteen years.  No one is sure where God may call the student to serve or what future opportunities may appear for which the student must be prepared.  As a result, the actual educational needs for the student may be imprecise.   The school strives to prepare students to serve in the unpredictable future.

What should the school measure?  When should it conduct its measurements?  There is no clear agreement on when the product of the school should be measured and considered complete.  The risk is that the board may not understand the long-range contribution the school makes until a significant time after graduation.  The effectiveness of programs is not always immediately perceived or understood.  Perhaps the relationship is more like a one-of-a-kind piece of art rather than a mass-produced souvenir. 

I really resonate with the “one-of-a-kind” piece of art when we think of students and our desired outcomes for them – Len’s last sentence is much more reflective of Ephesians 2:10 than what our current mass production schooling model demonstrates – we are God’s workmanship, his creation, especially and individually designed to do the things he has laid out in advance for us to do.

So what should we be encouraging in our “works of art”? What kinds of growth can and should we be expecting on the way?  We must look at students as individuals and expect fruit that is appropriate to how “formed” this student is at a particular time. George Barna, in a recent blog post entitled “Measuring the Fruit of Wholeness” makes this observation:

My research revealed that certain outcomes – behaviors, attitudes, desires – do not emerge until a person reaches a particular level of growth. For instance, those who are struggling with implications of sin and have not yet asked Jesus to forgive them (stop 3) bear overtly different fruit than those who have been broken of sin, self, and society, and have fully surrendered and submitted their life to God (stop 8). Knowing where a person is on the journey helps us to know what fruit to look for or expect. After all, you can’t naturally produce stop 8 fruit if you’re a stop 3 person.

Barna goes on to suggest:

Although I’ve been conducting surveys for 30-plus years, I think the best way to assess one’s transformational standing is through observations borne out of relational engagement… The people who know me best can capably discern whether I’m making progress in my journey to Christ-likeness, and what kind of fruit I’m really producing. Those same people are most likely to address my reality with a bluntness and compassion that I need in order to grow.

Isn’t that our opportunity with students?  We have the time in a daily setting to address their reality, to engage with them in the big and small matters of life, and to have honest conversations about the things that really matter.

How can we continue to get closer to measuring the most relevant things – the kind of things that our school missions so idealistically proclaim?


Filed under Biblical worldview, distinctively Christian, mission measurement, student outcomes

2 responses to “Are we measuring the right things?

  1. Here is our school’s attempt:
    The Desired Profile of a GCCS Grad

    Being in early adolescence, graduating students will still face many choices and challenges ahead; however, we would hope to see tendencies towards Christ-like attributes, such as:

    Growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18);

    Accepting the role of student as their current calling, hence developing the study skills and work habits needed to do their best as working for the Lord (Col.3:23)

    Serving God rather than self in every aspect of life without compartmentalizing their concerns into sacred and secular domains (Deut. 6:5);

    Acknowledging that sin has affected all aspects of the universe, and that Christ will one day make all things new (Romans 8:19,20)(Rev. 21) Until then, we continue to care for this planet as an extension of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15);

    Answering the question, “what is normal?” by living out the standard found in God’s word, e.g. the fruit of the Sprit, compassion, justice, etc (Ps.119:9) (Gal.5:22,23)(Micah 6:8) rather than the standard set by their peers;

    Understanding current events and issues but living without fear in this world, having a humble confidence that our loving God is in control, and will provide. Graduates will be prepared to discuss, engage and redeem culture rather than escape from it; (I Cur. 8:4-6) (James 2:17);

    Discerning that there are two kingdoms, the heavenly and the earthly, in conflict for control of their hearts, their minds, and ultimately, the universe. (James 3:15-17)(Romans 7:4-6)(2 Corinthians 7:10) They will seek first the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 6:33);

    Respecting their parents and teachers for nurturing them (Col.3:20);

    Participating in Christian community; by recognizing, developing and sharing their own gifts, and celebrating the differences that come from the ways in which God has gifted others (1 Cur. 12:21-26); and,

    Sharing God’s love with those inside and outside their own community in word and deed (Luke 10:36,37).

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