Every year about this time we ask all of the 67 campus ministries at the University of Texas to complete a year-end survey. We compile the data each year and create a resource known as the  Longhorn Chronicles. It’s all part of Campus Renewal Ministries commitment to “spiritually map” the campus. The Longhorn Chronicles allow us to better assess what God is doing on campus so that we can focus our prayers and plans.

It is rare, but sometimes ministries object to the idea of reporting “numbers.”  Two years ago there was a campus minister who was really disturbed by the questions we asked, thinking it was unbiblical to do so. Our conversation made me think more clearly about a few of the reasons I believe it is ver Biblical to conduct our surveys.

Numbers are People

It’s a misnomer or to say we’re trying to ask ministries for “numbers.” We’re asking them for reports on people. Numbers are people. We simply want to know the number of people who are being impacted by our ministries. As ministries compile data on the number of students saved, the number of students who went on missions, the number of students in missional communities, they are thinking of real people – people their ministry has touched.

God Is Counting

Pop quiz: How many disciples did Jesus have? How many did he send out in Luke 10? How many lepers did Jesus heal and how many came back to worship him? How many people professed faith at Pentecost in Acts 2? In Acts 19 when the Ephesians repented, what was the net worth of all they burned? What is the fourth book of the Bible?

You get my point, right? The Bible is full of numbers. Jesus counted. The disciples counted. God is counting. Shouldn’t we do the same?

God Sees The Heart

We try to measure what God is doing by counting, but obviously there is more to it than that. Counting is just an attempt to measure what God is doing. Ultimately, we know that God judges the heart. Only he knows what is really happening (good and bad) in our ministries and in our own hearts.

God measures faithfulness.  While counting, therefore, we should not measure our worth as a ministry leader or the worth of our ministry based on these numbers/people. We need to ask God to search our hearts to see if we have been faithful to the task He has given us and our ministries. Only He can produce the real fruit.

You Do What You Count

Counting is one of the best waysI know to hold your ministry accountable to its vision. Counting serves to remind you of what you’re aiming for.

For instance, we want our missional community leaders to partner with other believers, make new friends in their community, initiate spiritual conversations, begin to study the Bible with seekers, and lead folks to follow Jesus.  So we ask our missional community leaders to complete a monthly survey that asks: How many students are partnering with you in mission? How many friends have you made? How many of those friendships have led to spiritual conversations? How many are reading the Bible with you? How many have put their faith in Jesus? It is not legalistic or weird to do this. It reminds us what we’re aiming to do.

Whatever you are counting is likely a good indicator of what you’re aiming to do. Are you counting, as my friend sarcastically says of his denomination, “Butts, Buildings, and Budgets?” If so, then that shows what your goals are. Are you not counting anything at all? If so,”What is your goal?”

Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.