The last time someone asked you how your ministry’s going, did you give them an honest answer? Or did you say something like ‘fine’, or ‘busy’, or ‘growing’, but then immediately feel guilty about giving a ‘pat’ answer — either because it wasn’t true or, more commonly, because you just don’t know?
Often the answers we give to that question are really answering how we feel about our ministries or how we feel we are doing personally. When it comes to talking about our ministry impact, however, the reason we often revert to those answers is that we simply don’t really know how our ministries are doing. Here’s a truth I’ve observed over and over: Few church leaders actually measure and monitor the performance of their church as a whole or the ministries within. Some will say that metrics are not relevant in the local church, that they only matter in the business world. Luckily this mindset is becoming a thing of the past. More than ever, today’s effective church leaders know that a culture of assessment can coexist with the Holy Spirit. In fact, they realize that ignoring it is just poor stewardship!
How do you know if you are improving ministry effectiveness?
Like so many other things, developing a culture of assessment requires good strategy working in harmony with culture, people, processes and tools. It’s not an overnight deal but here are some great starting points.
- Define your ministry objectives, milestones, and metrics. The work of ministry is the most important job in the world, with immediate and eternal significance. If we believe this so strongly about a job, then that job deserves our very best. The challenge we face is that we can’t really know what our best is without clear objectives and measurements. Only by knowing those things can we identify how to improve. If you want to accurately answer the question of how our ministry’s going, you need to do three things: define the ‘wins’, monitor and evaluate, and execute change.
- Set clear expectations with your staff and volunteer leaders. A key cause of poor performance is poorly set expectations. Setting expectations for performance must happen at the individual level through a job description and at the ministry team level through a mission statement and business plan. Job descriptions should include three sections: purpose of the role, activities and tasks directly responsible for, and how to measure success, both objectively and subjectively.
- Consistently identify how your ministry can improve. Now that you have clear goals, it is time to monitor how well you are reaching them. I suggest three types of metrics for each ministry team or leadership role.
- Track some hard numbers. How many baptisms did we do this year? What percentage of attendees are in small groups? How many people in our church gave money each month in the last year? These are the types of things you put on a graph and publish to the team.
- Trust your intuition. The graphs are great, but they only tell part of the story. How you feel about the ministry, or how others feel about it, is equally important. Is the team getting along well, or is there tension? How would you rate the level of collaboration in your team?
- Get an assessment. There is great value in getting an unbiased assessment of your ministry, based on an objective standard of excellence. We all have blind spots, and a third party can help us see things from a new perspective. It is common in an assessment to discover things we didn’t even consider important are the lynchpin to taking the ministry to the next level. Church Community Builder offers assessments of four key leadership roles: Volunteer Coordinator, Connections Pastor, Leader of Finance and Generosity, and Executive Pastor.
- Develop a plan to change. You have set clear expectations for performance, and you have your assessment results and your metrics trending on a nice colorful graph. Now what? The purpose of all this is to identify what’s working and what’s not. Now you can begin to try new things and see if results improve, stay the same, or get worse. When using metrics to drive behavior change, we examine the data in three sequential steps.
- What? What is the data telling us? What is included in this data? How was it calculated? Before we can make a judgement about the data, we must understand what the number represents.
- So what? What does the data mean? How does it compare to our goals? This is the time you make a personal judgement about what you see. The focus is on finding meaningful improvements.
- Now what? What are you going to do differently tomorrow, next week, and next month? Is this a behavior you can change on your own, or do you need to demonstrate some expert change management in the team or across the church to make it happen? This is where you can experiment with new strategies. Make sure the metrics you’re tracking will tell you if the new approach is working.
Getting deep in finding out data and interpreting it takes time and passion. If we are serious about doing God’s work, we will be serious about data. Next time someone asks how your ministry is going, you can ask yourself if they are making small talk or if they really want to know. If they want to know, tell them to pull up a chair and settle in, because you really do know the answer.
What is your current attitude toward data and analytics? Why do you feel that way?