Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What does your church measure?

A couple of weeks ago I was selected to receive a new book by Cheryl Bachelder, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. Bachelder is the CEO of Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen. When she became CEO this was a business that was in trouble with its franchisees, investors, and customers.  Although I've just started reading the book, I've already found some great leadership principles that can be applied to church settings.

One of the things she discovered is that the company was not sure how bad things were because they lacked the data to understand exactly how they were doing. About the only thing they measured was dollar sales because that was what royalty payments were based upon. Bachelder realized that the company had to begin measuring other things that were important such as speed of service, market share, restaurant operating profits, and other metrics that would help them better understand where they stood. As she said, numbers don't lie. You may not like what you find when you begin to measure what you're doing, but it's the only way to know exactly what is happening.

As I read that I began to wonder what churches measure. As a former pastor I know many churches measure attendance figures and financial giving, but beyond that many of them measure very little. Without firm data they may think they are doing OK or they may fear that things are not going well, but they really can't be sure.

A few years ago a church called me concerned that it had been plateaued for the past few years. I obtained their annual reports and quickly found that they had reported a steady decline in attendance over the past 20 years. In that two decade period their average attendance had decreased by about 50 people. Because no one had ever ran the numbers, the church wasn't aware of what was happening in their church.

What should a church measure?
  • A church that believes in the Great Commission should be measuring the number of people who make professions of faith. In some churches that might be measured by the number of baptisms, in others they will have to find a way to measure this. If a church claims it believes in the Great Commission but never sees people come to faith in Christ, something is wrong.
  • A church needs to measure the giving in the church as one way to measure the spiritual growth of its people. Christians who are growing in discipleship should be growing in their financial giving.
  • Churches need to measure the number of their first-time guests and the number of those guests who return for a second and third visit. If the number of returning guests is low this is an indication the church needs to work on hospitality.
  • Churches need to measure the number of people involved in Sunday school classes, small groups, or whatever program used in the church to develop disciples.
  • Churches need to measure their capacity space. A sanctuary or parking lot that is at 80 percent capacity should be considered full. Seldom will such churches see additional growth until these barriers are addressed.
There are far more things that churches should measure than can be mentioned in this post. For a more thorough listing, and the reasons why such measurements are important to a church, I highly recommend What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn.

One last thought from Bachelder...measurements matter only if you plan to act upon what you learn. If you don't intend to deal with any issues you find, you might as well not bother to measure. But, if you plan to use the data you gain from such measurements to make whatever changes need to be made, then determine what you need to measure and develop a team to immediately begin gathering that information.

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