17 Nov, 2014 Measuring the results

Our team are very happy with the first effort. Assessment has identified areas that need addressing. The primary of these is the low web interaction / high bounce rate (meaning that many who came to websites didn’t stay long). This is easily understandable because our websites have Christian content, and some are not interested in looking at ‘Christian’ content. However, HopeProject.co.nz is intended as a ‘safe place’ for people to interact around the topic of hope – with some content that connects with Christian things, but also with content about the topic of hope that a non-Church person could happily interact with. The conclusion is that we didn’t have enough content on the topic of hope that didn’t have a connection to a Christian thought or person – so we will rectify this, because hope is a powerful topic.

Most church people seem very pleased with this effort, as our team are also. However, a small few have made comments that show they are struggling to work out how to assess the value of this effort. With this in mind I note my own reflections on this:

– When did we last have a cross-denominational project like this, or a gospel effort as wide-reaching as this? The vast range of this effort has stirred conversations the length of the country, both in and out of the Christian Church. Because only 4 out of 10 non-church people say they have a church-going friend, our churches’ ‘relational evangelism’ efforts could connect the message with no more than 40% of our non-church people (though do not achieve this in practice). This project has connected the Christian message with many among the other 60% – and can only improve as strategies are fine-tuned from lessons learnt. What is the alternative?

– The ‘event based’ outreach model is not only considerably inefficient, it also only has impact where and when the Christian population are already engaging those they know in conversations about spiritual things. Even then it is still connecting with those in the 40% mentioned above (it’s still not getting the gospel to the other 60% of the population). As much as events are needed, they are not on the same page as this effort for a comparison.

– Regarding ‘evangelistic’ (culturally appropriate outreach) equipping – which is in great deficit in our nation: In this past year it is probably that more evangelistic equipping took place as a result of our efforts than at any other time in the previous decade, or few decades. We have over 400 churches partnering now – but it was just 330 at the start of October, prior to the project. Of these, 80% equipped above a certain level, connecting the equipping with over 50,000 church members. Our philosophy has been that the day of evangelism seminars must be over! This is the mission of the Church, and there is no appropriate place for it other than the pulpit. As a result, our free online equipping resources (which the vast majority of these churches have been using) have resulted in pastors giving their evangelistic equipping through sermons, reinforced through small group studies, and further supported by use of our equipping videos – which, while some individuals have watched them, have been significantly used in church small groups, and shown in services!

  • This single part of this project, all by itself, is significant!
  • Also of note, this would not have happened if the equipping was not connected to a national gospel effort. It is the momentum of the ‘big event’ that attracted partnership – which opened the door to us to encourage churches to equip their members in these ways.
  • We have intentionally used the ‘big event’ to achieve our greatest goal – which is the changing of the worldview of our nations Church leaders with regard to the necessary priority of a specific gospel focus in the life and preaching of the local church. Please freely discuss this point with me. I have not hidden this agenda at any point over the past 3 years during the build up to the first phase of the Hope Project.

– In terms of inviting people in our culture into a conversation about spiritual things in an authentic, gentle and respectful way – a huge success was just realized. Instead of getting endless attacking emails (which could be the case were a more direct or confrontational approach taken), we received very little criticism – and many compliments. Most non-church people were comfortable with the way we took discussion about religion into the public sphere. This is significant! Our building principles of authenticity, gentleness, respect and a conversational approach worked!

– In terms of clear communication of the Christian message, ‘we ‘scratched where it itches.’ The first and oft-missed part of the gospel was addressed clearly in this first project: Namely, the existence of a single, knowable Creator God. At least 80% of NZers do not believe this point. Even though about 50% of NZers believe in a ‘God’ most believe all religions lead to ‘God’. The ‘knowable’ part is the topic of the second phase of the project (how do we know what God is like? Through the Bible, which records his revealing of himself through history, and ultimately in Christ Jesus), with what that all means (who is Jesus?) being the focus of the third and final phase, completing the planned communication.

  • Note, at the same time the rest of the core Christian message is still clearly and gently communcated in each booklet. Every opportunity is taken.

– In terms of fresh and helpful resources created for use in the three areas of (1) outreach equipping, (2) outreach and (3) discipleship, it could be fairly said that the team have excelled – and also completed all of this under budget!

  • For churches: 17 sermon outlines for pastors with attached studies, 14 concise equipping videos with study options, 5 excellent booklets on the gospel in our nation which pastors can print themselves for their members, downloadable poster and billboard designs, and children’s programs to match the brand new ‘Chronicles of Paki’ children’s story series (which includes telling about the gospel in our early history).
  • For outreach: The booklet is powerful – with many spares printed –and many churches requesting many spares for their use. HopeProject.co.nz includes a video series on ‘Heritage Q&A about the gospel in our early history, a powerful series of ‘unpacking life’ stories about how Jesus brought hope to people, and 3 video montages of people talking about their greatest hopes (street interviews, elderly people, children). 10DayChallenge.co.nz additionally includes a gospel presentation video, a series of ‘Faith Q&A’ answering FAQ about the Christian faith, and a ‘find a church near you’ map.
  • For discipleship: To supplement the above the 10DayChallenge.co.nz then includes the ’10 Day Challenge’ – which is a first 10 discipleship ‘lessons’ (tutorials) in video form with questions that can be watched by individuals, discussed in pairs in a café, or used for group discussion. Each comes with videos and discussion questions. It’s all free online. It works as well on a smartphone as on a computer (or via TV/projector). As a result, for a first time (that we are aware of) a Christian’s discipleship resource to discuss with their friend is with them all the time via their phone – and the equipping tutorial that teaches them how to use this is only 3.5 minutes long. It’s simple and intuitive. We believe this to be a significant pioneer resource in its form (with room for ongoing refinement), and with good content.

– We also believe our effort has been exceptional ‘value for money’ for our churches. The budget for this was $1.3m – which any quick accounting would show is low for what we have achieved (significantly because it includes hardly any salaries). However, as mentioned, we completed Phase I well under budget, providing good starting cash flow for Phase II.

– Additionally, some church leaders seem to have lost faith that a worthwhile national gospel initiative was possible anymore. We believe this effort is helping to restore this for many. We have gone ‘the extra mile’ in seeking to communicate openly throughout the entire process, so that it can be seen that we are being accountable not only financially, but in terms of our strategies and how we interact with all feedback and ideas that are given to us.

– Furthermore, we note that the above has only been made possible because we have ‘worked the ground’. We haven’t run this from an office in a city centre, as if we knew all the answers. We have connected with churches from Kaitaia to Invercargil who we have relationship with, and have engaged in conversation. We have travelled the entire country three times in under three years, each time holding meetings in 70 different cities and towns (the first time was meeting 70 ministers associations, the second two were ‘roadshows’, speaking at combined church gatherings). Even though attendances were often not large, we built relationships with pastors (because we’re all on the same page, and want the same thing). The physical toll upon those who travelled, and the administrative effort needed to do this have both been huge. This built trust – which has enabled what could not have otherwise happened in the current cultural climate of our nations churches!

We plan to complete a report on Phase I by April 2015, which will go to all churches who were partnered with the first phase, so they can see what their partnership enabled, and also what we learnt from the experience to strengthen the ongoing effort.

We believe the best time for Phase II for our churches is early next year (momentum must be worked with). All our efforts will be directed toward making this possible.

DAVE MANN. Dave is an Author and gifted communicator with a passion for the Gospel. This passion started when he came to faith at age 11. After Secondary School he went straight to Bible College, followed by 7 years in outreach ministry in New Zealand, then nearly 9 as a pastor in Singapore, before returning to New Zealand at the end of 2011. Dave is a visionary and fearless about pioneering initiatives aimed at helping the Church in New Zealand in the area of its mission. Author of various books and Tracts including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and available free on this site: “The what and how of Youth and Young Adult ministry”.
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