Welcome back to our discussion on what it might look like to measure spiritual impact of Seed Company translation projects. Last week we got the conversation started with How Would You Measure Spiritual Impact? Today I’m interviewing Gilles Gravelle, our Director of Innovation and Research. I hope you’ll stick around, because this is an issue affecting so many others beyond The Seed Company. So be ready to share your thoughts in the comments section.
Johanna Fenton: I said that measuring spiritual impact means answering the question: “So what?” Is that an accurate way of putting it? Also, who are the people asking this question?
Gilles Gravelle: The So what? question of late has less do to with measuring activities, attitudes, and product delivery, and more to do with measuring deep change. It is no surprise to most that the people asking this question are financial donors. Today’s emerging givers are more focused on results than perhaps they were in the past. However, agency leaders are also beginning to ask this question, and not just in the religious sector. Social sector leaders are asking about how to measure deep change in human behavior, stemming from their social work. Traditional church scientific metrics (surveys, focus groups, Likert scale, etc.) don’t necessarily help us discover what deep spiritual change would be in a culture much different from our own. We usually look for things that confirm our own assumptions and inherited biases.
JF: What might deep spiritual change look like in another culture?
GG: Deep spiritual change in non-Western settings may not necessarily be things we in the West think about. In New Guinea, a community of believers began revising their culture’s marriage system, at least between believers. I mean, literally and intentionally redesigning a thousand-year-old system because of how God had transformed their understanding of His design for marriage. Even though they had been under missionary teaching for decades, a new translation in their own language began to work on the deeper areas of the heart, and this was one result. In Asia, some people were no longer obsessed with the way they had to arrange their household furniture (Feng shui). A simple outward act, but it reveals a deeper inward assurance of Christ as protector. We could get into crop harvesting and spiritual change, but space doesn’t allow.
JF: So why the need to crowdsource ideas on measuring this sort of deep spiritual impact? Can’t we look to others who have hashed this out already?
GG: Mission measurement efforts have typically been the work of small groups of experts. Their tools were effective for measuring certain things, and scientific validation was critical. Now, figuring out how to measure spiritual impact of mission and Bible translation work requires at least a couple of things. First, small, closed groups have a hard time thinking about new things in new ways. Crowdsourcing widens the scope of our thinking by bringing in more people from more backgrounds with diverse experience to help the group brainstorm. Second, I don’t think the measurement tools of the past were designed to measure spiritual results, anyway. It’s a mismatch. So crowdsourcing this question of So what? should help us all to think in fresh ways how this could be achieved. It’s really a pioneering effort, in many ways. The crowd has the ability to sift through a lot of diverse information and individual bias and, according to theory, determine the best solution.
JF: So crowdsourcing could certainly help us. As “Foibled” commented in the last post, we need to come up with ways to measure spiritual impact that aren’t simply reflections of Western values. Now can you tell me, what is at stake? In other words, what would happen if we didn’t move forward in crowdsourcing these ideas?
GG: Yes, that’s a good insight, and Brad’s comment on the “fruits of the Spirit” got me thinking, too. In non-Western contexts, both of these could look very different, so spiritual impact measurement, at least as carried out by a Western agency, seems like it would be more about discovering what that deep change is, rather than confirming our own assumptions. I think there is a lot at stake right now because of mission shift, meaning the Globalized Church working together to plan, execute, and monitor results. The goals for any sort of ministry may need to be articulated in different ways than they were in the past. That is one significant reason that crowdsourcing (i.e. group creativity) should be applied to most any mission effort going forward, especially Bible translation.
The interview only gets better! Click here to view part 2.
Question for readers: Gilles said, “Spiritual impact measurement, at least as carried out by a Western agency, seems like it would be more about discovering what that deep change is, rather than confirming our own assumptions.” How might we discover deep change in another culture?
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.