What’s your sperm count?
This is my favourite question to ask students, church leaders, friends, and people I am mentoring.
Is it a little inappropriate? Maybe?
Is it uncomfortable? For some people.
Is it effective? Most definitely.
Check out this video for an explanation on why this is a great question to ask:
The sperm count is a discipleship tool that I created to try and actually track how the people in my life and church were actually doing. Nobody responds well to “How are you?”. Sometimes asking a rogue question like “What is your sperm count?” is just enough to shake people out of the mindless small talk culture that we have managed to settle ourselves into.
Sometimes asking a rogue question like “What is your sperm count?” is just enough to shake people out of the mindless small talk culture that we have managed to settle ourselves into.
SPERM is an acronym. Is stands for:
It’s pretty simple really. When you ask someone for their sperm count, you are asking them for a rating out of 10 in those 5 areas. How are you spiritually out of 10? How are you relationally out of 10?
The only other rule is that you aren’t allowed to say the number 7. 7 is the small talk equivalent of ratings. It’s the numerical equivalent of boiled potatoes- It satisfies the hunger but you don’t go looking for more. It’s lukewarm… click here to see what Jesus says about that!
So let’s explore each of the sperm categories.
S - Spiritual.
“How are you doing, out of 10, spiritually?”
When we are meeting in small groups, or we are discipling students, we want to be able to have open and honest conversations about our relationship with God. There is a bit of a growing subconscious culture in the Church which implies that it’s not okay to have doubt, to struggle with faith, or to feel far away from God. Of course we don’t strive to be far away from God, but the Bible is full of examples of Jesus welcoming doubt and meeting people in the place of lament. We need to create space for people to question and not be okay.
P - Physical.
“How are you doing, out of 10, physically?”
Asking about peoples health might seem quite normal, but this question goes further than asking if someone has got over their cold. We know that out physicality can have a profound impact on our discipleship. When we don’t sleep enough we are quicker to anger. Exercise can improve our mental well being. We need to expand our ideas of what is included in “discipleship”, and tracking how people are treating their bodies should definitely be a top priority. I have also found that sometimes the body realises we are struggling before the mind does. Maybe if we are getting sick all the time and feel really run down, we should probably put some things down and take rest a bit more seriously.
E - Emotional.
“How are you doing, out of 10, emotionally?”
Are we happy or sad? Are we in a season of celebration or lament? While our emotions can be connected strongly to our mental well being, they aren’t always singing the same tune. We should definitely create space for conversations around spirituality in times of struggle, especially in a culture where most of our modern worship music is around praising the goodness of God. Also, talking about your emotions is good for you. It can be tough to draw this out of guys in particular, but stick with it and you’ll start to see the fruit.
R - Relational.
“How are you doing, out of 10, relationally?”
A recent survey showed that young people are the loneliest generation. A remember a story of some students in my church who did some active missional work in a halls of residence over the Easter holidays a number of years ago. They ended up talking to a lovely, normal young student who didn’t even know the names of her flatmates after living with them for over six months! Do we know whether the people we are discipling are actually in community, or whether they just turn up to church. Do we know what affect their friendships are having on them? What’s their relationship like with their parents? If the Church is meant to be one body, we need to begin taking good community seriously, and be willing to adapt when we find loads of our students feel lonely in our church families.
M - Mental.
“How is your mental well being out of 10?”
We are pretty poor at talking about mental health and well being in the church. We just don’t know how to deal with it. We often feel unequipped to help people well, and are fearful of doing more harm than good. I can tell you that the first step is just to begin talking about it. We don’t need to have all the answers, and we do need to be willing to quickly and freely refer the people we interact with to professionals where appropriate, but we do need to be willing to chat through how people are doing in their minds. You might be the first person to ask someone how their mental well being is, which might be the first step to them seeking real help. Let’s commit to chatting this through with vulnerability and authenticity so we can see less students suffering in silence.
You might be the first person to ask someone how their mental well being is, which might be the first step to them seeking real help.
So that’s the sperm count!
Give it a try. You might be amazed at the responses you get when you ask people about specific parts of their lives. It’s also great fun to see how people react to a question that’s just a little bit uncomfortable.
Fusion are passionate about asking great questions in discipleship and mission. We produce a whole deck of cards with great questions to inform our mission and discipleship. Check out the DMC and Discipleship deck here!