When it comes to measuring overall growth, every church has its own formula, but the patterns are very similar from church to church. Most church leaders realize that simply tracking overall attendance numbers isn’t the best strategy, so they often use a combination of metrics from different areas of ministry. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that diving into specific areas of ministry will paint a more accurate picture of church growth.
I was reminded of this truth the other day when I came across a blog post from Seth Godin on the idea of speedometer confusion. In the post, Seth gave some brilliant examples of metrics people often use that don’t really indicate the end result. Today, I wanted to take Seth’s idea and translate it into ministry.
Four deceiving metrics that don’t really indicate church growth
Here are four common metrics church leaders use to measure church growth that don’t necessarily indicate a healthy, growing church:
- The number of new members. For many churches, the only requirements for becoming a member are to sit through some sort of new member class and sign a card. In some cases, they might even list all the volunteer opportunities for people to ‘check’ if they’re interested in serving. But what happens after people leave that class? Is it possible for people to fall through the cracks and drop out of sight? Absolutely.
- The number of people in small groups. Many churches today substitute participation for spiritual growth. They point to the number of groups they have and the number of people in groups as a sign of spiritual health. That’s not an accurate measure unless you are also monitoring how often they actually show up for their groups. Knowing whether people are truly involved and not just on a roster is the only way to know if they are on pace for a life of obedience.
- The number of volunteers in your database. Just because the overall number of volunteers is growing, doesn’t mean your church is positioned for more effective ministry. While it’s exciting to add five volunteers a week, what about the two who are quitting? Tracking the individual involvement of volunteers and how well they serve will reveal a lot about the health of your church.
- The number of new givers. Everyone gets excited about new givers, and it's a popular metric used to predict budgets and financial capacity. It's also super dangerous if you don't also know how many people stopped giving. You can set yourself up for some scary financial stress if you don't look at the full picture of net new givers.
What metrics you should measure instead
Many church leaders who measure health based only on numbers will do everything they can to keep those numbers moving up and to the right. They arbitrarily add people because Sunday ‘felt more crowded’. As a result, the numbers they rely on to determine the vitality of the church become little more than educated guesses.
Ministry is about seeing people become authentic followers of Jesus, not about beating the numbers from last year’s event or those of the pastor down the street. If you want to make sure the numbers you’re measuring paint an accurate picture of the overall health of your church, download ‘The Numbers Game’.
What are some other deceptive metrics church leaders use to measure church growth?