3 questions to ask when measuring the success of your ministry

By Lee Kemp 

As a pastor, you wouldn’t tell members of your church to compare themselves to someone else in the church, right? You would tell them to compare themselves with Christ. We need to validate that concept at a corporate level.

When we are examining our churches’ visions and goals, how are we tracking success? I think a lot of times we are comparing ourselves with other churches. For example, it’s probably not fair to compare a First Baptist Church downtown to a cowboy church. We’ve got to look at what we’re measuring, and with metrics that fit those churches. 

I also think that God doesn’t even care about some of the things we measure. There’s a big conversation among guys right now about this question, “Is what we thought was success really success?” Don’t take my word for it. Google “changing the scorecard of ministry” and see what’s out there. Or checkout how authors like Reggie McNeil are contributing to the conversation with his book “Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church.” 

At Forefront, we have sat in meetings and felt unsuccessful. But then we would stop and think about people we are ministering to and things we are doing in the community. That would incite us again to keep doing what we needed to do.

When we first started talking to the Boys and Girls Club, they said “We don’t work with churches at all.” We kept talking with them, sought out every way we could serve them, and then later were able to use their space—but they still wanted it off the record. Now we are able to gather there for worship on the record. That’s a success!

When we don’t have good metrics, it makes us question our faithfulness, or worse, God’s faithfulness. And a lot of times, it comes down to asking the right questions…

1. What is a church?

Alan Hirsch, a big author in the missional community, says that because God is advancing His kingdom in different times with all kinds of different people, then there are going to be all kinds of expressions of ekklesia.

This is happening in Arkansas. There are all kinds of churches being planted that are different expressions of ekklesia. One thing we will have to do to continue to have that kind of expression is to change our scorecard.

The metric could be the church’s vision.  Forefront’s vision is to reach the lost, equip the saved, and serve God by using our gifts to show Jesus to the River Valley community and beyond. My point is that nowhere in that vision does this mean Sunday morning attendance, a measurement of our building square footage, or our budget.

2. Can you name the people you’ve impacted?

This may be a better question than some of the usual questions we ask. Maybe you reached five new people this month, but do you know their names? It could be as simple as listing their names when you talk about the impact of your ministry. 

When your staff says, “This was a hard summer—with people traveling and all—but here are five people who got connected with our church while y’all were gone. They’re excited…” you are staying faithful to the course without questioning “Where’s God?”

3. Who is being discipled outside of Sunday mornings?

We might be tempted to think that if we are reaching the lost we will have more people in our church, or that equipping the saved will bring more unbelievers to our church on Sunday morning. That’s not necessarily true. We need to develop a moving, mobile metric to track disciples who make disciples. 

Churches will list budget numbers and things, but very rarely do they sit down and list people who have been paired up for discipleship. Maybe that’s a good new metric because the rubber meets the road when we say, “Here’s Johnny, who’s going to disciple him? Here’s Suzie, who’s going to disciple her?” Your hand is being forced to the paper, and this makes ministry real.


The traditional metrics don’t always fit the vision, so we should instead ask the right questions for our churches. If we have decided to reference standard “scorecards,” then we might miss what God is wanting to do right now.

Members of Forefront installing an industrial fan at the Boys & Girls Club

Between Sundays: why churches fail or succeed

By Lee Kemp 

Why is Sunday to Sunday important as a church planter? Well, it’s just like a football team.

As a youth pastor, I was fortunate to be around Greenwood High School football, coached by one of the soon-to-be hall-of-famers, Rick Jones. What has made him successful, just like every other leader I’ve observed, is what he does when no one is looking.

There’s a great quote that says, “What you do when no one is looking is what you will become when you can no longer help it.”

As I’ve thought about this, what I’m doing during the week when no one’s looking at me is what really influences what Forefront becomes when we can no longer help it. 

The importance of training leaders

There’s two parts to this. First of all, there is conscious doing. What I want to do the way I want to do it. Eventually, you get into ministry and you are unconsciously competent. You know what you’re doing, you just don’t naturally stop to explain it. If I’m not careful, I’ll be doing ministry with an unconscious competence.

If I’m not training leaders during the week and discipling people, then it’s going to impact my ministry when I need all hands on deck.

It’s hard sometimes to put on the coaching hat and say, “Hey guys, we need to have these conversations. We’re going to be doing this kind of ministry.” Between Sundays is a developing conversation, and if we don’t have that ministry bank to withdraw from, we won’t be able to draw it out. This is why established churches and church plants are either failing or succeeding.

{ Between Sundays is a developing conversation, and if we don’t have that ministry bank to withdraw from, we won’t be able to draw it out.}

Lives aren’t going to be changed just because I check all my emails. If I don’t give people my time, and do life with them then the ministry coaching piece is absent.  People don’t care how much you know ‘til they know how much you care.

So I look at my in-betweens. I ask myself, “Lee, what time am I giving, and when, to leaders? What time am I giving and allotting to lost people?” and “Who am I developing to reach the others in-between?”

The impact

On that note, meeting lost people doesn’t have to be weird. My son got involved with the Fort Smith Boxing Club and the Boys & Girls Club. Now Forefront worships at the Boys & Girls Club, and I’m leading a Bible study there!

What I’m bringing to point is: between Sundays really does show who we are. 

Albert Einstein said, “We are already perfectly organized to achieve the results we are getting.”

Our services, numbers, etc. at Forefront are just a reflection of what we are already doing. This is sobering. And I can’t look at my church and accuse my people for not seeing results I might have desired. They’re my sheep, I’m they’re shepherd.

I have to say, “Lee, what did you do between Sundays?” 


We are Forefront

By Lee Kemp 

Today I wanted to introduce you to the beginnings of Forefront church and the pulse of this blog! My heart is that you would experience with us the glorious adventure and sometimes raw struggle that is church planting.

The Stirring for Change

In November 2012, after 12 years in full-time ministry, my wife and I were evaluating what we had done in the ministry and asking God for clarity on what He wanted to do in our lives. We both felt like God was leading us to make a transition and a big step of faith. We just didn’t know what.

After reaching out to friends in the ministry, reading several books, and most importantly praying, God led us to the work of church planting! We shared with our church family that we would be moving back to my home town of Fort Smith, AR to plant a new church!

The Change Conceived

We moved to Fort Smith in February, 2013 and began to meet with key Christian business men to partner with us. We would begin planting Forefront Church by doing ministry at a large apartment complex and these men would be key in fulfilling that vision. Later in June 2013, we moved into a small two bedroom apartment and took on the adventure of starting a new ministry work.

{ we moved into a small two-bedroom apartment and took on the adventure of starting a new ministry work. }

We started with just getting to know people! We put together ballet classes for girls and also did some swimming lessons on Saturdays. Once we had several key friendships established in the apartment complex, we launched an outdoor worship experience for adults while serving the kids in the apartment clubhouse.     

The Idea Takes Shape

Ministry work continued in the complex for one year as we focused on doing events to foster new friendships and worked to develop and build a consistent weekly meeting for worship. Meanwhile we had several families who lived in different areas praying for us and keeping up with what we had started in Fort Smith. Almost a year and a half after we took that step of faith and began the work at the apartments, six other families sold their houses and moved to Fort Smith to help us plant Forefront in the Summer of 2014!

Forefront Launches

With an established group of families committed to the work, Forefront church was ready to launch in September of 2014. We started meeting weekly for worship at another existing local church who also supported us by integrating our children into their ministry while we met on Sunday mornings.  This gave us a huge opportunity to focus on reaching lost people where we lived, worked, and spent time having fun. 

Over a year passed in this context and our Sunday morning gatherings grew to reaching around 60 adults and 35 kids weekly.  We began to experience another stirring for change and started praying about our next steps of planting the church.

Within this time we approached the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club about allowing us to use their facilities on the north side of town for worship on Sunday mornings. The Boys and Girls Club in Fort Smith had previously experienced some less than desirable behavior from churches before and were a little cautious in the beginning. Over time though they became more open to partnering as we had agreed to take on the task of freshening up their facilities with new paint and basic level remodeling work. This past September 2015, we started having our weekly gathering at the Boys and Girls Club!

The Heartbeat of Forefront Church

Forefront’s desire is to be at the forefront of what God is doing in changing the lives of those who feel far from God.  Our vision is to Reach the Lost, Equip the saved to reach others, and Serve God by using our gifts to show Jesus to the local community.  Our heart is to maintain an external focus as a church.  Right now we are keeping that focus by continuing our work in the apartment complexes with couples from our church living onsite and by worshiping at the Boys and Girls Club in an ongoing partnership.