I recently read an article about the importance of developing metrics based on the organization’s vision and values. So far, so good. But it continued with this example: “If your church values ‘worshipping God intimately’ then you can measure attendance in your worship services.” No!!!
This kind of statement makes many church leaders recoil from metrics altogether. The number of attenders says little about intimacy in worship. You can have a lot of people who aren’t truly worshipping. You can have a small number of people who are deeply engaged. It would be like me evaluating whether my neighbor is a good father based on how often I see him playing ball in the yard with his son. It’s good that they are playing ball, but it’s a very incomplete picture of his parenting.
To be fair, I recognize that it is impossible to quantify “intimacy” in worship. At best, we can choose some proximate indicators. You could invite a team of spiritually-minded people to give regular feedback on the worship experience. Or you might conduct a periodic survey of worship participants to ask how they are connecting with God in worship.
Where does this lead? We will always wrestle with metrics in ministry settings, so here are two ideas to guide your thinking:
- Be honest about “top-level” metrics. Churches will continue to track attendance and giving (and other easy-to-measure data). Those aren’t bad things to measure. They are indicators that you should watch. But don’t claim that they represent something more than they are, like intimacy or spiritual growth.
- Decide what really matters and go deeper. Your vision should describe where God is leading your church or ministry. So how can you tell whether you’re making progress toward that vision? That’s where you need to develop metrics. It might be survey-based, such as a self-assessment of spiritual growth or disciplines. Or it might be a more nuanced quantitative measure, like the number of person-hours invested in local mission partnerships. Whatever you choose should help you assess progress toward the vision and lead more effectively. That’s a real metric.
Real metrics are not just an exercise in mindless counting. They’re tools that leaders use to steer their organizations toward a God-given vision. Is that what your metrics are doing?
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