I often hear the question from church leadership, "What metrics should we measure?" In a data-saturated Information Age that often feels overwhelming to decide which metric to pay attention to and make decisions based on, we're left longing for simplicity. Despite having a mass amount of data unlike any generation of ministry prior, feelings of inefficiency and ineffectiveness arise within you. Do we need all these metrics? Are they essential for modern-day ministry? Is there a better way? How do we decide which ones we do and don't need?
First, Metrics Do Matter
Should churches measure metrics? Are they helpful or unnecessary? Are metrics to "businessy" to the point it makes ministry unreliant on the Holy Spirit's work? Biblically, it's important to acknowledge that metrics matter. The Old and New Testaments record numbers or metrics that measure God's progress in building his Church. Numbers are recorded frequently for celebrating, praising, and thanking God for his work among his people. Counting numbers and metrics is not bad until we seek to manufacture metrics that, in turn, become meaningless. We don't minister for bigger metrics - it's not the remedy to a broken world. Conversely, metrics help church leadership minister better to the souls entrusted to her by God. Metrics are the M.R.I. machine that reveals issues and progress of a church's health.
Metrics are the M.R.I. machine that reveals issues and progress of a church's health
Metrics matter because it helps measure the progress God is making in one's ministry. If progress isn't measured, our eyes will be blind to the work of God around us. We may miss God answering our prayers with His manifested work right before our eyes. Truthfully, we must celebrate God's work among us in gratefulness, not ingratitude. Celebration requires that we pay attention to what matters. We measure what matters. Metrics matter to God, and they should matter to church leaders. The hard part is deciding which metrics we should or shouldn't measure. Let's dive in more.
Here's a framework I recommend using for deciding which metrics to measure and where (specific ministries):
#1 Global Ministry Metrics
The most obvious metrics to measure are those I call "Global" metrics. These are the metrics you see shared in a "Vision" service or end-of-year "Celebration" service that gives major metrics affecting all church ministries. For example: salvations, baptisms, new members, giving, worship service attendance, etc. What metrics are important to share with the entire church body? That's the question to ask for identifying "Global" ministry metrics. Should Kids, Youth, and Adult ministry numbers be included? Which ones? VBS? What about service hours in the local community? There are hundreds of metrics to consider counting and celebrating with the entire church body. However, the more metrics you share, the less important each becomes. Sharing too many ministry metrics can overwhelm and water down the value of each ministry's progress. Pick out the metrics you find most important for your local church's vision and mission to be fulfilled.
The more metrics you share, the less important each becomes.
#2 - Individual Ministry Metrics
The next and less obvious type of ministry metrics to consider are individual ministry metrics. I find it rare that individual ministries such as Adult Groups, Youth, Hospitality, Kids, and other ministries share ministry metrics specific to their area(s). The global metrics are often all a church will think through and move forward with those. Specific ministry metrics can and should be shared with the team laboring towards gospel progress in these individual areas of ministry. A youth pastor would greatly benefit from sharing how many teenagers were saved through their ministry efforts over the past year. Share how many kids were baptized and learned to share the gospel. Kids ministry volunteers would be encouraged, inspired, and refreshed to hear how their ministry efforts matter. Individual ministries should be counting and celebrating ministry metrics specific to their ministry area(s) with their volunteer and/or leadership teams. It disciples gratitude, worship, and passion to continue advancing the work.
#3 Macro Ministry Metrics (Public)
The third piece of the "Deciding Church Ministry Metrics" framework is "Macro." Macro ministry metrics are Public metrics announced to "Global" or "Individual" ministries. This may seem unnecessary to explain, but the final category will shed light on the important distinction between the two. As stated prior, the more ministry metrics that are shared the less important each becomes. Hence, it's essential to determine which measured metrics should be publicly announced and which shouldn't. For example, should all these be shared publicly globally: salvations, baptisms, operation Christmas boxes packed, first-time guests, counseling appointments, home visits, weddings officiated, and babies born? Most likely not. There are global metrics that you will measure with the desire to share publicly and others you won't, which leads to the final category of the framework...
#4 Micro Ministry Metrics (Private)
Finally, there are "Micro" ministry metrics to measure. Private metrics are measured in "Global" or "Individual" ministries. Why would you need Private ministry metrics? Shouldn't you share all the metrics with the church to know what God is doing in their midst? Yes and no. Micro or Private ministry metrics are determined by asking the following question:
What ministry metrics are helpful to measure health but unhelpful to communicate to the entire church body and individual ministries?
Again, micro or private ministry metrics can apply to both "Global" and "Individual" ministry areas. Both should have micro ministry metrics they measure to indicate spiritual health or illness. Here are some examples: first-time guests, second-time guests, new member class attendees, number of people who completed a Bible reading plan, percentage of people in a group who attend a worship service, how frequently teenagers attend youth group and worship service, free Bibles given away, percentage of worship service(s) filled, parking lot capacity, and more. These are all important private metrics to monitor, or the ministry could suffer or, in some cases, cease to allow others to partake. You might see 200 people joined a group, but only 50 attended more than twice the entire 12 week semester. That would indicate a health problem with that individual ministry you may want to know about.
These categories can help you and your staff team decide which ministry metrics you should and shouldn't measure and which you should and shouldn't share. I find church leaders at the elder or executive levels of leadership will consider these questions more than the rest of the staff team. Giving your team a helpful framework like this can provide clarity and consistency in their ministry efforts. Setting goals with ministry metrics that indicate a trend towards or away from ministry progress is needed more in churches.
A game plan without a goal is chasing ghosts.
Help your team chase after a finish line that isn't moving. Please do not let your staff team be surprised not to reach a goal because they didn't have helpful metrics to indicate a trend one way or the other. Don't let them reach a ministry metric goal without having gratitude and contentment in how the Lord has worked. Celebrate what He is doing because he may not always do the same thing.
Senior Consultant and Author at Build Groups in Dallas, TX. Adam has served in Executive, Discipleship, Groups, Young Adult, and Youth ministries. 5-time best-selling author of Christian leadership and discipleship resources. See more about Adam's consulting services on the following topics:
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