The Golf Scorecard
Every golf course provides golfers with a scorecard and a small pencil at the beginning of their round. The scorecard measures two things: the total number of shots made per hole and the total number of shots made per round. That’s it. The focus is on the total score. Nothing else is measured.
The Old Scorecard for Groups
If you have been around group Bible studies for any amount of time, you have realized it also has a scorecard. Right or wrong, the old scorecard for groups has measured one thing: the total number of people in Bible study each week. That’s not necessarily a bad measurement. After all, numbers represent people.
“How many people were in your Bible study today?” is a question group leaders ask one another. We like to compare our group to other groups to see if we are winning or losing. Attendance has always been our way of keeping score. For years it seems like the mantra has been, “The person with the biggest group wins.”
Attendance is something we can measure, and we can compare the number to last week’s attendance, or attendance last year on the same Sunday, or the attendance of other groups. But is this the primary way we should measure the success of groups? I do believe we should measure attendance, but like the golf scorecard, measuring attendance is like measuring the total number of shots taken. It is a one-dimensional way to view your Bible study group.
Could there be other ways to measure the effectiveness and success of Bible study groups? I believe the answer is a yes.
A New Scorecard for Groups
As my golf game evolved, I learned that there was more to measure than just my total score. I learned how measuring things like driving distance, the number of greens I reached in regulation, and my number of putts could help me improve my game. When I began tracking these things and not just my score, my golf game improved quickly. I could see weaker areas where I need to work.
The same is true for Bible study. By creating a new scorecard for groups, we can get a better picture of our performance as leaders. This can create a big advantage for tracking our “game.”
Earlier I said that the old scorecard for Bible study groups focused on attendance. It is not a bad measurement, but it certainly falls short of a complete picture of what is taking place—or should be taking place—in our groups.
What if we measured groups in ways that might give us a better idea of where we need to improve? The mission of ongoing Bible study groups—and the new scorecard—can be summed up in four measurements, what I call the “LIFE” acrostic:
- Learn and obey God’s Word.
- Invite people to become disciples.
- Form deeper relationships.
- Engage in acts of service.
I go into more detail on these four measurements in my book Breakthrough, but I began using them years ago when I served as a full-time discipleship pastor. As I did, I discovered that these four measurements keep the focus on what matters most. To say it another way, they help groups know whether they are on target. They also cover essentials, such as Bible study, spiritual growth, evangelism, relationships, and serving others.
It’s no accident that the four measurements are built on the acrostic LIFE. Bible study should not only be about what happens from nine until noon on Sunday. It should prepare Jesus’s disciples for a lifetime of followship. From cradle to grave, the Bible teaches us the way to please God as we love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
In golf, as in Bible study, there is more than one way to measure success. It is time, perhaps past time, to move beyond making attendance the main measurement of group health. We will continue to count people—that won’t change. But by digging into the four LIFE measurements, groups can be reoriented to a new way of measuring success in Bible study.
This article is adapted from Ken Braddy’s book Breakthrough: Creating a New Scorecard for Group Ministry Success (B&H Publishing, 2022), which is available at lifeway.com. Ken serves as Lifeway’s Director of Sunday School. In addition to his work at Lifeway, he has more than two decades of experience as an education pastor, author, conference leader, and blogger. You can learn more about his ministry to leaders at kenbraddy.com.