For a long time, churches have used two metrics to measure their “success” – butts in the pews and money in the coffers. Those metrics were fine when the church was the center of the culture – when the culture assisted in creating guilt for people to go to church on Sunday regardless of their actual beliefs. As with any metric, there are limits. Butts in the pews doesn’t translate into disciples, or really anything beyond who was in attendance in worship. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with measuring how many people are in attendance in worship. That can actually be a useful metric. But it’s a lagging indicator, not a leading one. And, like most indicators, if it’s not read in context, it can actually provide misleading information.
For instance, if there is an increase in worship attendance, it doesn’t really tell you why. Is it because there is a new pastor? Or maybe the old pastor left? Or maybe there is an uptick in discipleship? Or maybe there’s a great deal of social ministry happening and those being helped are showing up? Or maybe a new housing development opened up near the church? Or maybe someone else started counting and they count a different way?
We don’t know. Just as if attendance goes down. Whether attendance is going up or down isn’t the real mark of success. You could have 10,000 people in a church worship service, but if what is being taught is far from the Gospel, is that success? At the apex of Jesus’ ministry – the night before he died – there were 12 men gathered with him and one left him. That night others would run away and his closest disciple would deny knowing him. Jesus’ attendance was in a significant downward trend. Without context, we might say that he was a failure based on the numbers in attendance.
I raise this because in the midst of pandemic, I have to ask this question – what are you measuring? Numbers of views on your livestream or recorded worship? Views equal how many people exactly?
How about money? How are you measuring your finances in the midst of crisis?
Having attendance and finances as the sole metrics in the midst of crisis are not great indicators to tell you how the church is doing right now.
Right now the metrics I’m looking at are who’s stepping up? Just people who are already engaged, or are there others who are stepping up who weren’t as engaged as before? I’m looking at ministry that is happening with the poor and outcast – how are they being served in the midst of crisis and who is doing it? What are the creative ways in which ministry is happening? How are those who have been engaged changing in their engagement right now? How willing are people to adapt to new technology in order to continue the work of ministry and worship in the life of the congregation? What stories are we sharing – stories about encounters with Jesus that are happening in the midst of crisis? And yes, how are the finances right now? Are people continuing to give? Are they giving to other non-profits in the midst of crisis? Are they giving because they see that what church is doing is actually impacting people’s lives in real ways right now?
What are you measuring? And why?