What metrics should interim pastors watch?

How does an intentional interim pastor build a winning program in a client church overshadowed by mega-church-in-a-box franchises with unlimited budgets and oodles of free publicity?

Careful research and metrics that matter.

As in Baseball…

Moneyball is the story of how the 2002 Oakland Athletics built a winning team on a minuscule budget. The plot revolves around team manager Billy Beane’s discovery that the team scouts followed a tried-and-true formula of choosing players based on worthless metrics. In the search for players who produced runs, the scouts measured all the wrong things.

Beane’s innovation was careful analysis of the only metric that mattered: a player’s ability to score runs or to stop the other team from scoring. Tradition and “received wisdom” were discarded.

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know the winning results.

… so in Church (more…)

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Interim pastors can ride the wave without getting swamped

Interim pastors sometimes find themselves called to a church without knowing that it is on the cusp of explosive growth. This happened to me once before and now it looks like I’m in for my second wild ride.


Image credit: epicstockmedia / 123RF Stock Photo

If rapid growth overtakes an ill-prepared church you (the interim pastor) are either in for a wild ride or you’re about to be tossed about like a toothpick in a tsunami. Here are a few key action steps that will help you stay upright at the helm:

Keep it simple


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7 simple steps to 1st rate church hospitality


friendly-churchWhen was the last time you visited a place that billed itself as “the unfriendliest church in town?”

Me either.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to one. But they’re out there in spirit if not in name. Tim Dolan reports that one of his lay ministry students found one.

As an assignment, I encouraged my students to put on their “visitor hat” and attend a local church service to find out for themselves. Normally, students do not take me up on these kinds of challenges. Barb did. Barb attended a worship service as a first time visitor the very next Sunday and reported back to me what she had experienced.

Barb’s experience at this church confirmed what I feared. No one greeted her at the door when she entered the church building. A man standing in the narthex did not know what time the service began… No one greeted her as she entered the sanctuary and sat down. One woman came along with a bus load of children and gave Barb that “you’re sitting in our pew” glare… When Barb went forward for communion, the pastor simply stared at her and said nothing. Just a blank stare.

After the service, not one person came up to her or greeted her. After what seemed like an eternity, Barb finally left. As she entered the parking lot, she noticed the pastor fully engaged with a church member, so she quietly slipped away.

Is it an understatement to say that “churches are not always as welcoming to first time visitors as they like to think they are”? Church hospitality needs to be continually refreshed. Pastor, this is so important that you can’t afford to delegate this to just anyone. Find someone with passion about church hospitality!

Simple things please church visitors (more…)

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Ministry metrics: the hard and soft measurements

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.”

  1. Number of new conversions
  2. Number of baptisms
  3. Visitor retention rate

Church metrics that matter (more…)

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What does the research say about attracting church visitors?

Worship 1

[dc]H[/dc]Heal the sick, raise the dead and fill the pews – preferably with young families who’ll bring some vitality and energy to this place.

That’s the interim pastor’s call, isn’t it? But it’s a trap, a real Catch-22. The reality is that aging congregations trapped in a death spiral generally don’t want to make the changes needed. They’re just like the church in the old joke about praising the Lord in a liturgical church.

One Sunday a visitor showed up in a church being led by an interim minister. The church was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. That made it all the more obvious when this visitor shouted out “Praise the Lord!” When something the pastor said excited him.

One of the regular attenders leaned forward and tapped the man on the shoulder and whispered, “We don’t praise the Lord around here.”

Someone seated nearby heard this exchange and they said, “Yes we do. It’s on page 15 of the Lectionary.”

Part of the interim pastor’s job is to give client churches a stiff dose of reality: steadfast refusal to allow changes that inject spiritual vitality traps the church in a death spiral. Unless the interim can break this deadlock the church’s future prospects are bleak indeed.

This is where the  Faith Communities Today Project comes in. They have produced a very helpful tool, Insights Into: Attracting and Keeping Members Every interim pastor should keep on file. The rich content – data, graphs, analysis and recommendations – make this a helpful teaching tool for churches in transition. In this article I want to hit some of the highlights of the report, but I urge you to download it and keep it handy. Chance are you’ll need it.


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Can megachurches be church visitor friendly?

A colleague of mine once visited a mega-church in southern California while on vacation. The 6,000 seat auditorium was filled to capacity that Sunday morning. He was quite surprised when, during the ritual exchange of the secret Churchman’s handshake, an elderly lady made her way down the aisle from several rows back to greet him with a, “Hi, this is your first time here, isn’t it?”

He was flabbergasted! “Yes, it is. How did you know?”

“Because you’re sitting in my seat.”

According to my friend this is a true story.

Church visitors: opportunity and challenge


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Church visitors’ gifts that surprise and delight

Church hospitality is a vital ministry. This is especially true for congregations with a very low church visitor retention rate. To offer anything less than superb church hospitality is sad. To neglect turning visitors into members puts the church in a death spiral.

One element of a rich experience that leaves church visitors going, “Wow. That was a great church!” is a gift that is culturally proper, distinct from  “run of the mill” items, and something so useful they will use it often. Every time they do they’ll think of your church!


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1 powerful technique to revolutionize church hospitality

Turnaround pastors have a unique opportunity to permanently change the trajectory of church hospitality.

Our “information gathering” in churches doesn’t even capture the majority of guests. Auxano research shows that five to eight percent of your worshipping community will self-identify as guests. Therefore the number of guests in one year is: [ (Ave. weekly worship attendance) x (.05) x (52)]

  • Will Mancini

Two factors work in your favor. First, you have more church visitors in a year than you think.

Second, you have a great deal of freedom because the church hired you to guide them thru change!

In this article I want to share with you one powerful technique that will rock your next church visitor’s world. By recognizing and using the power of narrative you can make it one of the most attractive and hospitable churches a church visitor will ever encounter.

Recognize the power of narrative


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