Becoming Bilingual

Written by Mergon guest writer, Matt Bird – CEO/President of Cinnamon Network International

The church communicates value through the stories it tells. In contrast, civic society communicates value through the numbers and metrics it uses. Cinnamon Network International helps the church become bilingual by communicating its value in numbers as well as stories.

Developing the capability to communicate the value of what the church and Christian organisations do in numbers transforms the way people perceive their contribution. Previously what seemed soft, fluffy and nice becomes concrete, specific and real. Civic leaders and institutions, whether in government, police or business who were agnostic about the role of church and faith in society become advocates. This is what happens when you become bilingual.

Jesus told the parable of the talents in which a wealthy man gave one person five talents, the next person two talents and a third person one talent. The one who had been entrusted with five produced another five, the person who had been entrusted with two produced another two and the one who had been entrusted with one simply returned the one (Matthew 25:14f).

The investor was not only wealthy but wise, and he had done his due diligence. His research confirmed that he was right to trust five talents to the man who had subsequently provided a 100% return. I can imagine he was surprised with the person who he had entrusted with three talents who also provided 100% return on investment, and perhaps he should have entrusted him with five also. However, the one who had been given one talent had produced zero return on investment which was unacceptable.

Whether investing in a business, allocating resources for public service or donating to a non-profit, wise people want to know what their return on investment is. In business that return will be financial with increasing social expectations. In the public sector the return is social capacity alongside value for money. In non-profits, the return is the whole person and financial probity.

I believe this parable should cause us to ask what ‘return on investment’ are we showing the people who donate to and partner with our church or Christian organisation? Stories are powerful but so are metrics.

Byron Loflin, President of the Center for Board Excellence, which was recently acquired by Nasdaq says, “What’s measured moves”. It is my experience that what you measure becomes a compass and magnet for your time, energy and resources, and that is where growth and change happen. So how are you measuring the impact of your church or Christian organisation? What are your goals? Where are your time, energy and resources being expended? What change are you measuring?

The purpose of Cinnamon Network International is to respond to invitations from leaders in countries around the world to develop Cinnamon Networks to activate and resource local churches to serve and transform their communities and cities. So one of the things we decided to measure is the value of the service that churches give to their community or city.

The Cinnamon Faith Action Audit is a unique measuring tool for churches and faith based organisations. It enables them to work together in a district to measure the contribution they make to the life of their communities. Whilst it measures many things the lead metrics is the value of church-based community volunteering, because it is both a financial and a human number.

In the United Kingdom the Cinnamon Faith Action Audit has been used by churches and faith groups in 92 government districts to measure their social and economic impact. The average respondent rate was 46.5% and the data covers more than 20% of the UK population. The Times newspaper ran an article of the results from the UK wide Cinnamon Faith Action Audit with the headline “Loving thy neighbour is priceless – but also worth £3bn” (per annum).

This research has made civic society sit up and listen to the church and faith based organisations like never before. It has elevated the confidence of the church and civil society to collaborate in new ways. It has brought the church and faith-based organisations to the table to be involved in the strategic planning of their communities. It has challenged the unity of the church and to recognise the value of who they are as a united force for good. It has also resulted in government, business, police and health agencies making grants to church-led community development.

In 2019 the first US Cinnamon Faith Action Audit was completed in New York City and in 2020 it is expected the first Cinnamon Faith Action Audits will be completed in South Africa, Australia and Denmark. These are exciting days of the church around the world becoming bilingual so that it can more effectively bring the live and love of Jesus to individuals, families and communities and as a result see their education, health and livelihoods transformed.

Matt Bird is the founder & CEO of Cinnamon Network International  he is also a prolific international speaker, author and broadcaster.


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