Who defines your metrics?
Seth Godin's recent post Don't Steal Metrics is a must read for church leaders. It forces us to think about why we use the metrics we do. Think about it for a minute... what defines success at your church? Why?
I'm convinced that answering "I don't know" to the second question is worse than having the same answer for the first. Don't get me wrong, not knowing what defines success in your church is a problem. But not knowing why we define success the way we do means that we will never truly hit our goals.
A few years ago I sat down with the pastor of a rapidly growing church and asked him how he knew whether the church was being successful or not. His answer was essentially nickels and noses: average weekly attendance and giving were growing year over year. This church had ambitious discipleship and outreach goals, but they based their success on how many people showed up on Sunday morning and offerings.
Several months later, the church saw a downtown in attendance and giving. In their attempt to be successful in the attendance and offering tallies, they lost sight of helping get people connected into their discipleship pathway and connected into service opportunities. This lack of connection made it easy for people to head elsewhere when the church began addressing uncomfortable discipleship issues. In using the "industry standard" metric, the church was successful on paper, but was failing in its overall misison.
Knowing what it is that you are called to do and developing clear metrics based on that calling will help you understand where things truly stand in your church. Average weekly attendance is a helpful think to keep an eye on, but if your ultimate goal is to see people engage in authentic biblical community, perhaps the more important metric should be the percentage of your average weekly attendance that is currently involved in your small group ministry.
When setting metrics, start with what you are attempting to achieve and work backwards. Don't lean on the industry standard... lean on what your church is uniquely called to do, and determine what needs to happen in order to achieve that calling. This works for job descriptions, for annual reviews, and for strategic planning purposes.
Want someone to help think through your church's success metrics or thinking about hiring another staff member this year? Let's talk!