One of the top questions we are asked often sounds something like “How successful is your programming?” or “What is your success rate?” While the question of how we measure success is important, the answer can be difficult to quantify.
We have plenty of stats that we measure success by. We can tell you the numbers of women served at our Drop-Ins. The number of minors we mentor each month. The number of Outreach bags given. We can tell you how many residents we have had at the Adult Safe House and in The Oaks. If you want numbers, we certainly have them and do share them. But success is often more complicated than that.
The question we feel is more important is: How are these people being impacted on an individual level? On a day-to-day basis, the large-scale stats are far from our staff’s minds. What is on their mind is the woman right in front of them. They are so much more than a number.
At a recent staff meeting, our Director of Adult Regional Programming , Michelle, was reporting numbers of women served. She said “When you look at the numbers, it is absolutely mind-blowing the number of women that get to encounter Jesus.” That is what truly matters to us—not that we have large numbers, but that each of those numbers represents an encounter with love, an encounter with Jesus.
Let’s take a look at what is behind one of those numbers.
There is a particular woman that we’ve known for a while on the streets. Our Outreach team runs into her often. The interactions are usually the same. We give her an Outreach bag, we talk with her and she gives us updates on what’s been going on, we offer to pray with her, and then we invite her to the Drop-In. “Not today,” she says. “Okay,” we tell her. “If you ever want to come, we’ll be there! The number is on the bag.” She smiles and thanks us and we part ways.
One day a few weeks ago, we met her again on the streets. We gave her a bag, talked, and invited her to the Drop-In. She looked down the street and then smiled. “Yeah, I’ll go.”
We drove her there, containing our enthusiasm, and texted Drop-In staff to let them know she’d be coming. We watched her walk up to the house and continued with Outreach.
At the end of the day, the names on the Drop-In sign in sheet were counted, hers included, and the numbers reported. But what those numbers don’t show is the year of relationship building that happened before she ever stepped into the Drop-In. They don’t show the smile on her face as she accepted the invitation and as she was greeted by the Drop-In staff. They don’t show the joy staff had over her taking this step.
What the numbers can’t measure is hope.
Her saying “yes” to this invitation was worth so much more than a single headcount at the Drop-In. It was worth every Outreach bag she received, every prayer that was lifted for her life, every ounce of trust that was built between her and our team. This success, this number, was a culmination of months of hope.
We have countless examples of successes that can never be quantified.
A youth might come to Selah’s for years. Each visit she is shown how she should be treated, loved, and cared for. A recent Joy Jar Moment from minor mentoring was “J broke up with her boyfriend—said he was toxic!” This is not a success that is written in a yearly report, but it is the result of all of the positive relationships in her life. Through the love and positivity she was shown at Selah’s she is able to differentiate positive relationships from negative ones, and decide for herself she is worthy of more.
A caregiver recently called The Willows hotline and received support in a moment of crisis. She received the help she needed and felt more equipped and confident to raise the teen in her care. The confidence and hope renewed in her cannot be quantified.
An incarcerated woman receiving a Bible for the first time during one of our Jail Bible studies can be a recorded stat, but the good that can come from that one encounter could be limitless, eternal.
There is victory in each day.
These reasons are why it can be difficult to give a short and straight answer when someone asks us to measure success. Not because we don’t see success, but because we see it every single day. We see success in every victory—big or small. We see success in the hard days that we push through, in the good days where everything seems to fall into place. When we dedicate ourselves to serving others like Jesus did, we see success every day. We see hope every day.
In how we measure success, we know the numbers do matter. They allow us to do our jobs well, to know that our programs are working and allow us to optimize them, and to support those we serve. But we keep in mind that there is so much more to what we do than numbers, and behind each one are so many more moments, so much hope.