The Path to Meaningful Metrics

In our work with churches, we consistently hear leaders want more on this important topic. In fact, this one area scores the lowest in our Church Activation Assessment when leaders assess themselves on how they are doing in activating the Great Commission. So, we’re back again this time with another look at church metrics.

Our last post acknowledged that church leaders could struggle to use metrics well, primarily for emotional reasons, and we highlighted how using numbers properly will benefit your church. 

When churches use Intentional Growth Planning to organize church activity around mission and vision, we help them create an Activation Dashboard that keeps track of meaningful metrics. The Plan and the Dashboard go hand in hand because the Dashboard measures how you are doing against the Plan. 

There are four types of churches in this regard:

Type 1: The church with no plan and no dashboard. Its leaders believe in the overall mission of Jesus, but because they have no plan and no dashboard, they’re never sure if their efforts are making an impact.

Type 2: The church with a plan and no dashboard. This one is common. Its leaders developed a plan but never aligned their metrics with it. With no dashboard, the plan eventually fades into the background of church activity.

Type 3: The church with no plan and a dashboard. Most of the time, this church had a plan and adopted a dashboard (attendance, offering, per capita, etc.) for a good reason. Time has passed, and they are still counting the same things, but they are not sure why. 

Type 4: The church with a plan and a dashboard. Its leaders have a plan and are using the dashboard to measure the plan. This is the power of ChurchOS.

The fundamental principle behind the church with a clearly articulated plan and well-defined dashboard is ALIGNMENT. 

Alignment takes time, and many leaders don’t want to slow down long enough to define terms. 

For example, if your plan says, “We want our church members to volunteer regularly as a spiritual formation practice.” This triggers a list of alignment questions:

  • What does “volunteer regularly” concretely mean? 
  • Who is going to make sure the data is entered correctly and maintained?
  • When and to whom are we going to report this data?

There may be more questions, but it illustrates why alignment is difficult. (And “volunteer regularly” is a pretty innocuous term. Wait until you tackle words like DISCIPLE.)

As you wrestle with questions like this, it is tempting to chase the perfect answer from a philosophical and theological perspective. We get it. We have been a part of those meetings. We encourage teams to focus on an agreed-upon definition, not the perfect definition. And if necessary, have an agreed-upon time when you will ask if the definition is working for you.

For a church to reach its redemptive potential, you need alignment. So, here are two concrete applications for immediate implementation. 

  1. Give this blog to your leadership team. Ask them to choose which of the four descriptions above best describes your church. (This is a discovery exercise, so withhold judging others’ answers. It helps you move towards alignment.) 
  2. Choose a term you regularly use at your church, and ask probing questions to see if you are aligned on the definition. 

After you’ve had a chance to engage with your team on metrics and alignment, check out the other areas of Great Commission activation by taking the ChurchOS Assessment.

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