Welcome back once again to those of you who’ve been following our discussion on measuring spiritual impact. If you’re new to the blog or joining us for the first time on this discussion, please feel welcome. The series kicked off with How Would You Measure Spiritual Impact? followed by the first portion of an interview with Gilles Gravelle: Discovering Spiritual Impact in Mission.
Want to know why this series matters? If you’re in cross-cultural ministry, or you support one, this series offers you the latest on assessing outcomes for:
- Better stewardship
- Better accountability
- Fulfilling your mission
Without further ado, let’s dive into the second portion of the interview with Gilles Gravelle.
Johanna Fenton: Why is the ministry of Bible translation especially in need of crowdsourcing?
Gilles Gravelle: Think about crowdsourcing as a way to view the community — the people receiving the translation — as co-producers and not necessarily consumers. I know that sounds a little odd when talking about producing a Scripture translation, but given the urgent social, physical, spiritual and development needs these days, including as many people as possible in the project has a lot of benefits. A previous blog topic covered that, but for now this means they bring incredibly rich feedback on every stage of the translation project, from the very start. Translators have always valued feedback, but in this case the feedback is not just responses to questions after a translation is more or less codified — in other words, when it’s not very open to significant revision. Pride of ownership and engagement with the Scripture text from the start, often in unpredictable ways, is true localization. It doesn’t bear the mark of foreign importation or adaption.
JF: You emphasize the importance of timing with the phrases “from the very start” and “at every stage of the translation project.” It seems you’re talking about measuring spiritual impact in the early stages of translation projects. Is that true?
GG: Determining from the very beginning why a group of people want to do a Bible translation in their language is important. In the past, the reasons were fairly general, such as to spread the Gospel and help people know Christ better. Of course, those are good reasons, but these days many people see Scripture addressing human development needs as urgent—that is, scriptural solutions to various kinds of human impoverishments. This is the everyday practical or applied theology goal of Bible translation. People have unique needs, depending on their circumstances. So what needs to be addressed sooner as opposed to later? Spiritual understanding for victims of trauma, human trafficking, AIDs? When the people identify what they want their Scripture translation to accomplish in their community, then they can plan for that, monitor how they are doing, and regularly assess the degree of beneficial impact their translation is having in those areas. This is spiritual impact measurement. Better to plan from the start what you want to measure later on.
JF: Okay, so another part of the equation is the cost involved. Why the emphasis on discovering an inexpensive method of measuring spiritual impact?
GG: There are two simple rules in the area of impact research: (1) Don’t measure things you have a pretty good, informed guess about. Just measure things that you really don’t know but need to know. (2) Start simple and cheap to build on discovering what you don’t know for the purposes of learning. Simple and cheap is more repeatable, and iterative learning leads to improved ways to discover impact. Pragmatically speaking, few agency leaders are willing to spend a lot of money and staff resources on measuring the unknown. As learning increases, so does people’s confidence in the measurement method, and support grows.
JF: Now let’s change course a bit. Can you tell me, how might these experiments become relevant to what’s happening in the U.S.?
GG: Knowing the degree of spiritual results that any ministry, including a local church, is achieving with all of their God-given resources has not been a priority. The leaders have simply assumed that significant beneficial impact was happening. But these days, more people want to financially support and personally participate in high impact cause-oriented projects. This means measuring spiritual results will be necessary to confirm the good use of funds and human resources. This will also help their donor and volunteer retention rate. People don’t want to waste their time or their money. There are many other ministry opportunities out there. They literally numbers in the tens of thousands, so competition is a reality. Small and even medium-size churches are struggling over low income these days, and this is one of the reasons. Parachurch organizations, which come in all sizes and tend to be more innovative, also need to make spiritual impact measurement a priority.
Question for readers: How has this series helped you? What next step has it encouraged you to take?
About the interviewee: Gilles Gravelle has logged over 30 years in global mission work. He enjoys research, writing, and speaking on 21st Century church, mission, and philanthropy. You can follow @gillgravelle on Twitter.