Seventeen years ago Bob Merritt, senior pastor of our Eagle Brook Church, Lino Lakes, Minnesota, shared a vision with us. He said, “There are 50,000 people within a golf shot of our church who don’t know Jesus. Eagle Brook is a church that is going to do everything possible to reach those people for Christ.” His next statement really got me excited: “Our goal is to be a church of 10,000 people by 2005.” I soon quit my job, and Eagle Brook hired me to help accomplish this goal.
About 2000 people were attending on weekends then, so ours was a big goal. Our Christmas attendance in 2005 was just over 10,000, and God created a 20-year run of our church averaging 20 percent growth each year. Today, Eagle Brook is a church of six campuses, with weekend attendance totaling 22,000.
After 16 years on staff, I’ve seen the power of remaining focused on the mission and of measuring what matters. More than anything else, at Eagle Brook we are compelled to reach people for Christ. So we turn down all kinds of opportunities, knowing they will distract us from our mission. Too many churches get pulled into church activities and programs that have little to do with reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we measure salvations, it makes clear how well we’re doing our mission. And it motivates us to make adjustments if we’re not seeing the results we want.
‘All you care about is numbers’
There will always be people who accuse you of turning the church into a business, or who’ll say something like, “All you care about are numbers.” Well, we do care about numbers, because each number represents a real person who matters to God. Some of those numbers are friends I’ve personally invited to our church.
One of my best friends started attending our church a few years back, and God got hold of his life in a big way. He told me, “Dale, I’ve always believed in God, but now I’m a follower of Jesus Christ.” Because every number is a real person, we are unapologetic about measuring what matters. For us, that’s salvations and growth in attendance. We’ve seen how growth in attendance directly impacts reaching more people for Christ. So we plan for growth, we anticipate it and we boldly go after it.
Nothing is more important to us than reaching people for Christ and inviting more people to our church. After that, our goal is to help people spend time with God, connect in community, serve others and live generously. Each of these is a critical value that needs to be measured. Every year we set goals around our values and track our progress on a regular basis. But we boldly lift the values of invitation and salvation higher than the other values because we know these require the most energy. Bob is famous for saying, “If you focus on the mission of reaching people for Christ, you’ll always have ministry. But if you focus on ministry, you’ll never get around to the mission of reaching people.”
Set a goal and create a scorecard
I encourage every church to determine what the main thing is and then set a goal. Once the goal is set, create a scorecard. Everything changes when people realize there is a goal and a scorecard. It’s as if someone yells, “Game on!”
We recently put up a whiteboard in our church office that boldly states our goal for the number of salvations we’re believing God will give us. Every time we learn about a new decision to follow Christ, we increase the number on the whiteboard. Instantly, we see we’re making progress.
The challenge for every leader is to keep asking two questions: “Is our church working? How do we know?” If you measure what matters, it will help you reach your friends, family and neighbors for Christ.
Dale Peterson, Executive director of the Eagle Brook Association
Dale Peterson is executive director of the Eagle Brook Association, a ministry of Eagle Brook Church, Lino Lakes, Minnesota.