Benchmarks! This term used quite often in business today brings a particular image to my mind – the marks on the door jam as I grew up by which I measured my growth. Do you remember? Back up to the door jam in the wash room, lay a pencil on your head and mark your height. Then, a month or two later, back up to the door jam and do it again and determine how much you have grown. Webster’s definition of the word is not far from that childhood memory. Webster defines a benchmark as “a standard or point of reference in measuring or judging quality.”

A benchmark is a specific measure to apply to ourselves to see how well we are doing. For us as a church, benchmarks are the indicators by which we measure our progress as the people of God in this place.

Why are benchmarks important?

  • Benchmarks are tangible reminders of our accountability. Sometimes we forget we are not our own. We belong to God. We are therefore accountable to him. Benchmarks remind us of that fact.

  • Benchmarks keep us from becoming complacent. Entropy is the tendency of an organization to run down. Benchmarks intercept that entropy and stimulate us to move forward.

  • Benchmarks give us a base point for evaluation. Activity is not always a sign of progress. Benchmarks enable us to determine if we are active in the right way.

  • Benchmarks can create unity in the church. A commitment to a commonly desired goal does more than anything else to make members of the church ignore the petty differences that separate us and join our lives together as the people of God.

What are the dangers of benchmarks?

  • Benchmarks can become idols. We can become more concerned about achieving our benchmarks than in being sensitive to God’s leadership.

  • Benchmarks can give us a false sense of satisfaction. If our benchmarks are inappropriate for our church, the achievement of them is likely to create a false sense of satisfaction. Doing the wrong thing, no matter how well we do it, is not a mark of success in the church.

  • Benchmarks can create an improper feeling of competition. If we use other churches to determine the benchmarks for our church, out-performing the other churches can take priority over realizing our own potential.

  • Benchmarks can become ends in and of themselves instead of means to an end. The ultimate end for the church is not to reach our own benchmarks but to carry out our mission for God. Benchmarks are simply means to enable us reach that desired end.

So here are some questions to contemplate.

  • How should we determine the benchmarks for our church? For our own lives?

  • How often should these benchmarks be evaluated? By whom? By what standard?