I love getting out of the office to visit with churches! This is where the real action happens. It reminds me why I do what I do and keeps me in touch with “the tension” many church leaders are trying to manage: the tension between where they are today and where they feel God is calling them to go.
Recently, I spent some time with a church who is doing amazing things in their community and connecting with people in some very advanced ways. They are not content with just knowing that new people show up at their services every week. They truly care about why they showed up, whether they come back and what works best in terms of getting them more deeply engaged. They are also thinking critically about how they can better measure, monitor, and manage the process of getting their people and their ministry to where they feel God is leading them. The questions they are asking of themselves are tough ones, but I believe they will lead them to a whole new level of church growth and impact.
After a few hours of listening and asking questions to better understand what it is they were trying to accomplish, I discovered several areas they were trying to assess and wrap new processes around. One of the themes that came up was their inability to easily track any meaningful small group metrics, even something as simple as attendance. For them, small group attendance can be facilitated through the tools they use. That is not the problem. Rather, they are confused as to how they move in this direction without becoming they church they never want to be? (A very good, honest question.)
They understand that community matters in the whole discipleship/growth equation. The staff recognizes that tracking member activity is important to validating and interpreting growth. However, there is a tension between their desire for these metrics and their desire to serve and support a very flexible, laid back, and over-scheduled culture. The bottom line is they don't want to be seen as "control freaks".
This church staff is not the only one wrestling through this tension. They are also not the only ones who desire to better understand what’s happening below the surface so that they can validate or challenge their assumptions about what’s working and what’s not. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that I see more and more churches moving in this direction. It will be interesting to watch as this movement matures among church leaders and how that impacts church growth theory and best-practices moving forward.
In the next few posts, I will unpack more of what I am seeing and thinking along these lines.
What role do metrics play in the decision making of your church staff?