The church I’m currently serving as the intentional interim pastor has the Annual Business meeting scheduled for the last Sunday in January. This past Sunday we conducted a dry run to finalize what would be included in the report to the congregation. The Executive Pastor, the outgoing chairman of the Board and the incoming chairman have done a lot of work to pull numbers somewhat akin to reality out of morass. My hat is off to all those men because this is the sort of work that chafes my hide after a short ride.
After everyone had hashed out the numbers, clarified what they represented and determined the best way to present to the church one of them asked if I had any thoughts. Never lacking for words – but often at a loss of cogent, coherent thought – I chimed in.
“These numbers tell us the current and the likely near term financial condition of the church. But what they don’t tell us is whether or not the ministry has been effective. There are three important numbers that are missing.”
- Number of new conversions
- Number of baptisms
- Visitor retention rate
Church metrics that matter
Financial reports and membership inflow/outflow reports are important, no doubt about that. Giving is a leading indicator of member dissatisfaction. It also gives indirect peek at spiritual maturity.
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Clearly, these numbers are important. They are measurements of careful stewardship, prudent investment and financial accountability. You dare not ignore them. But they don’t tell the whole story.
On a side note
Growing churches run into cash flow problems when the demands created by a rapid influx of new people isn’t met with increased giving. People typically don’t give significantly or sacrificially to a church until they’ve been assimilated and consider it “theirs.”
Two numbers will tell you if you need to be concerned about cash flow crunch or if it will take care of itself. Compare the number of new people and check to see if the existing members are continuing to give in a normal pattern. If there is a significant increase in the percentage of new people entering the church and the existing members have not dropped their giving, everything will work out. Control discretionary spending for a while and you’ll soon be in good shape.
In addition to the nickels and noses – which, I stress are important – a church should measure and track a number of other items. Some of them are hard measurements and others are soft.
- Number of “first time” converts (I never knew there was another kind, but a lot of people talk about it) – a measure of missional effectiveness
- Number of baptisms – a measure of missional effectiveness
- Number of volunteers in regular service – a measure of discipleship
- Number of hours per week/month members serve outside the church – a measure of discipleship and missional effectiveness
- Number of new affiliates assimilated – a measurement of effective systems
- Dollars spent on training missionally minded church leaders
- How many congregants were trained how to engage unbelievers in the community
- Number of outreach activities organized, staffed and run by church members
- What is the “buzz” in the congregation – what do they talk about in unguarded moments?
- How do you describe the congregation’s willingness to engage in mission activity?
What do you think are the most important metrics that matter in your congregation?
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