Using metrics in church leadership

Last week I blogged about transformational leadership in congregations. One of the brief points I made was that lay leaders need to know and focus on the right metrics. A Time of Grace reader replied, “Pastor, could you explain the phrase used in connection with lay leaders: ‘know the right metrics’? I’m not sure what that means or entails.” 

The question is how lay leaders and people in governance get a handle on how well the congregation is doing. How can they help the staff set clear goals for each year’s work?

Those in governance should insist on good data in advance of their meetings. You can’t comment intelligently if pieces of paper are handed around at the meeting and only one person has had a chance to look at the information beforehand (I’d recommend at least three days). Data should include:

  1. Month-by-month revenue and expenses
  2. A balance sheet, which lists the congregation’s financial assets and the monthly changes; lists all debt and progress on debt payments. Leaders need to be sure that the congregation’s debt is mission-focused—expanding real estate or facilities, for instance—and not propping up recurring operating shortfalls.
  3. Worship attendance for the weeks under review, year-to-date, and a running three-year trend line.

A key metric: In my opinion the spirit of growth and outreach in a congregation can best be measured by how many adult confirmations there were.

Believers can’t do God’s job for him. Only the Spirit, working through the Word, can convert people from unbelief to faith. But it is our job to gather a crowd and set the Word loose. Every business that wants to grow sets specific goals for its sales team to help them focus, focus, focus. Church staff leaders can fritter away their time and energy on many nonessential things. They need to feel accountable for the key elements of carrying out the Great Commission, to bring the gospel to all people. Outreach never happens by itself. It is always intentional. It is learned behavior.

In my experience measuring the number of total members in a congregation is interesting, but those numbers can conceal the reality of how many of them actually have a pulse—how many are in the Word, giving their energy and talents, and investing their treasures in the mission. I prefer to look at the weekly worship attendance for a truer indicator of the size of the congregation. It is also instructive to count how many people are in Bible study or Sunday school and how many are involved in some kind of service or work.

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.


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