In my last post I mentioned Jesus’ words:

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. – John 15:2

I wrote that everything we do needs to be analyzed to determine if it fits with WHO God has called us to be and WHAT He’s called us to do.  Those things that don’t fit need to be eliminated.  And those that do fit need to be evaluated.

I want to drill down on that idea of evaluation.  In order for us to evaluate our ministries, we have to have a way to measure the WHO and the WHAT.  It sounds good, but how do you actually do it?  How do you determine if you’re actually moving in the right direction?

Measuring What Matters

Too many churches only measure “butts in seats” and bucks in the offering.  That’s not bad, but is that really what we are all about?  Are we really focusing solely on growing our crowd and our income?  I think building the Kingdom is MUCH more than just these two.  But if you look at the common metrics many pastors use, it would appear that they are in it for the glory and the money. (OUCH!)

I don’t believe this, of course.  Most pastors are fulfilling the call of God on their lives by investing in the precious people God has sent them to serve.  Most of these same pastors put in incredibly long hours going the extra mile and getting little recognition for it outside of the occasional, “Nice sermon, pastor.”  They are on call 24/7 and don’t see their families enough.

But I think we can do better than this.  We would be wise to take Andy Stanley‘s advice and define what a win looks like in every area of our church.  For instance, if we don’t settle the win in our ministries, everyone will come up with their own scorecard.  The creatives will celebrate when the music pops, a joke makes everyone laugh or a video really connects with the crowd.  The mercy gift people know we’ve scored if we take the time to really pray over people during the service.  The worship junkies will rejoice if our music team helps them really experience God’s presence.  And the ushers (and pastors) will high five each other when we have a record crowd (with no problems).

But are these (connection, prayer, experiencing God’s presence) really metrics that we can trust?  These all seem a bit subjective to me.  Yes, we want people to connect and to feel God’s presence.  And of course we want a large attendance.  But is that really proof that we’re accomplishing what God has called us to do?  The only way to know that is to clearly define the WHO and the WHAT, as I discussed in my last post.

Once that is done, we can move on to the metrics.  We have to find a way to measure if we’re moving in the right direction.  The more specific the win, the easier it is to measure.  For instance, “helping people become more like Jesus” is good, but sort of hard to measure.  But if we distilled that down to “helping people take the next steps in their faith journey,” we are able to better quantify the results.  For the “next steps” metrics we would first need to define our discipleship pathway.  In this case it could be things such as:

  • How many visitors did we have this weekend?
  • How many returned once?  Twice?  Three times?  Four times?
  • How many of these have responded to the altar calls?
  • How many have gotten baptized?
  • How many (esp “newbies”) are involved in a small group?
  • How many are going through our growth track?
  • How many are serving?  How often?  (occasionally, 1x/mo, etc)
  • How many have given financially? (This isn’t as important for visitors as for members, but it can reveal their level of engagement.)
  • How many have we plugged into our leadership pipeline?

As you can see, the more focused the goal, the easier it is to measure progress.  But we have to figure out a way to track each of these and discipline ourselves to stay on top of it.  We need to be able to make course corrections, and the only way to do this is to keep our goal in sight while paying attention to our gauges (metrics).

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Of course you’ll have to determine the metrics for your church based on your core values, vision and strategy.  This is different for each church.  But if our goal is life change, we need to define what that looks like in our setting and what steps they need to take to reach that goal.  Then we can determine if people are running the bases in the right order.

What metrics do you use at your church?