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Econometrics of Prayer

Sam O'Neal in his book Field Guide for Small Group Leaders reports an interesting statistical study by Jim Egli and Dwight Marable on the impact of prayer on small group performance.

The econometric study was based on a comprehensive survey of three thousand small group leaders in over two hundred churches across the United States. It contained hundreds of questions that probed into every detail of a person's role as a small group leader. It covered group dynamics, leader behaviour during the group meetings, leader preparation before group meetings, leader qualifications (such as having a Bible degree) and more general variables (e.g. gender, socio-economic variables). O’Neal summaries the results of the econometrics study :
"...The leaders whose answers revealed a strong relationship with God had groups that were healthier and faster growing. These groups experienced a deeper level of care between members, had a clearer sense of mission beyond their group, and produced more leaders and new. In other words, small group leaders with a strong prayer life were more likely to witness Spirit-driven growth not only in their own lives, but in the lives of their group members as well. In addition, group leaders demonstrating strong prayer lives witnessed greater evangelistic impact within their groups. Much greater, in fact. According to the research, 83 percent of leaders with a strong prayer life reported that at least one person had come to Jesus through the influence of their group, while only 19 percent of leaders with a weak prayer life could say the same…”
I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the results! One would need to look clearly at how the econometrics was done and how it accounted for some of the “endogeneity” issues, but it is a strong encouragement that God indeed does answer prayer. And not only that it appears that success in any ministry depends on how much we are in touch with him!

As an aside, I was also very encouraged to see that Egli and Marable undertook this study. According to O’Neal, Egli has a “Ph.D in statistical analysis”. Statistics or econometrics is created by God and therefore God’s children who are gifted in that area should try and use it to serve God’s kingdom. Many churches are very poor at using mathematical disciplines for God’s purposes. There’s a natural aversion to data because we think God does not want us to count. But God created numbers and instead of shunning metrics or statistics we should be asking how we can use these areas for God’s glory. 

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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