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GMI Info
A Global Mapping International Newsletter Fall 1999


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Best Practices: highlighting innovative and effective approaches to mission research

Information Technology for Strategic Decision-making

For the past four years, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has been pursuing an extensive project to evaluate their ministry effectiveness. When they began the effort, their first challenge was to find a way to quantify something as subjective as "ministry" in a meaningful way. What resulted was a multi-level evaluation process that involved a combination of hard and soft data brought together within an intuitive software interface.

Working both from the field and from their headquarters office, MAF researchers collected four different types of data: 1) indicators of country social conditions; 2) indicators of spiritual conditions on the field; 3) field evaluation of MAF's strategic impact; and 4) measurements of MAF's program productivity.

Research results were gathered, normalized and combined in ways to produce a "score" for each of these four areas. For the first time, MAF had an "apples to apples" comparison standard by which all its programs worldwide could be measured.

The most useful presentation of the data turned out to be scatter charts created by plotting social vs. spiritual scores and strategic vs. productivity scores. These two charts provided information that helped MAF answer two strategic questions: "Are we in the right country?" and "Are we doing the right things and doing them well?" Already MAF leadership has made significant decisions regarding initiating new programs and withdrawing from others, guided by the information given on these charts.

As with any first attempt at creating a comprehensive ministry "yardstick," it is not perfect. However, they are on the right track and now know how to improve it even more for the next round of program evaluations. It is not insignificant that MAF now has a common measurement standard by which all existing programs and new ministry opportunities are evaluated. It is the first time that they have a strategic information system that actually shapes ministry direction.

We are delighted with this innovative use of information technology and mission research to enhance strategic decision making. It speaks volumes of MAF's commitment to accountability and effectiveness.


For 56 years, MAF has been involved in helping missions and churches reach out to the remote corners of the earth. Through both air transport and electronic communication services, their goal has been to multiply the effectiveness of those they serve in reaching the world for Christ. Finding ways to measure how well this goal is being achieved has been the job of Jon Lewis, VP for Research and Planning. Working together with two others in the Research Office, they produced the ministry measurement tool described at left.

Jon feels that although information technology has been employed by missions for some time, most are still using it primarily to make them more efficient - to do what they have always done, just faster. "It is time to go beyond efficiency and learn how to harness the power of IT to make us more effective," he says. "Our technology has a wonderful ability to help us produce useful information that can actually help us shape ministry strategy. The key is to determine what the right information is and then let our computer technology make it 'useful' for strategic decision-making."

MAF hopes its ministry effectiveness tool will become a model for others to use in their own evaluation efforts. For more information, contact Jon Lewis at:

Mission Aviation Fellowship
Box 3202
Redlands CA 92373
Tel: +1-909-794-1151
E-mail: JonLewis@XC.org
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