Numbers don’t tell a story, right?

You might remember the recent update from Sudan, “Bibles and Bombs in Nuba,” about teachers choosing class locations based on proximity to foxholes. Thirty-seven students are in these classes. Or another story, “Investing in the Hard Places,” that told of a pastor in Ethiopia who relocated his family to an evangelism-resistant area. He has graduated 72 pastors. You remember the stories before you remember the numbers.

After all, the journey of faith is certainly no cut and dry game of numbers. It doesn’t matter how many students are in those classes in Sudan if they are not growing in their faith. It doesn’t matter how many graduates are in Ethiopia if they return to their home churches without an increased understanding of the Bible. Individual transformation – the journey from understanding to commitment to action - is at the core of our mission. But so is maintaining a culture of assessment, something that often does involve numbers.

African Leadership recently wrapped up a three-year assessment with an independent philanthropic research and analysis organization. Tying together stories and numbers, the assessment measured the effectiveness of the Applied Education program numerically and the personal progress of pastors tangibly. Pastors completed a survey before beginning classes and then again upon graduation. Through a number of indicators, the assessment tracked nine key outcomes for the pastors.

What did we discover? Pastors graduating in Sudan and South Sudan experienced a 103% growth in the way they holistically respond to community needs. Pastors in Ethiopia experienced a 21% increase in their personal transformation and consistent display of a biblical worldview. Pastors in Uganda were 51% more effective in the way they communicate biblical truths, and pastors in Malawi saw a 51% increase in biblical knowledge and exegesis.

Now, those are some numbers that matter. Those are the numbers that spur an endless number of stories in communities across the continent. Numbers may not tell a story, but they certainly do validate a story.