It’s a huge question some church leaders ask: “Why is my church not growing?” It opens the doors for lots of analysis and examination but doesn’t always lead to helpful fruitful outcomes. Why? Because these assessments are perspective-led instead of data-led. There are some key church metrics that if we are aware of, we’ll lead from an informed place, and not an assumed place.
When discussing growth questions with some churches I work with, something peculiar sometimes happens. I’ll be sitting with their leadership team, no doubt drinking much-needed coffee, and asking questions about their story, situation, challenges, and church metrics.
Several of my questions involve numbers: “how many come on a Sunday?”; “how many young people do you have?”; “how many did you baptise this year?” and so on. These help me paint a picture of what is going on. Once in a while, someone in the room pipes up and says something in the vein of “it’s not about numbers though, is it?”
In a sense though, the question being discussed – “why is my church not growing?” – shows numbers are key, because we only know a church isn’t growing by counting the numbers! So, depending on what they mean, the answer to whether numbers are important or not changes. If the question really is “are numbers the only measure of our success?” then my answer is a resounding NO. But if the question really is “do numbers really matter?” then my response changes to a loud YES.
Numbers and metrics don’t tell a story, but they help shape our understanding of the story. They reveal key information that should cause us to respond; we should do some things differently on the back of what the numbers say. This is what I mean when I say it is important to have data-led conversations, and not preference-led ones. Otherwise, false conclusions can be arrived at and things are continually tweaked and changed with the hope that there will be the discovery of a ‘silver-bullet’ that will address why the church is not growing.
Church metrics and stats aren’t necessarily sexy, but if we don’t track or count certain things, we won’t be able to steward them well. If we don’t steward them well, we won’t be able to assess them. If we can’t assess them, we can’t have data-led discussions around why a church is not growing.
Here are five reasons why church metrics matter.
1. Church Metrics Show Strengths & Weaknesses
Leaders tend to be an opinionated sort. They know what they think! How they share those opinions might be constructive or not, but that aside, we can think we know if something is strong or weak, and we might be right. But we might be wrong. Personal bias, lenses and emotional responses shape our perception. Objective data, in the form of numbers, will confirm the reality for us either way. For example:
“I now know why my church is not growing. We are strong in X but weak when it comes to Y.”
2. Church Metrics Influence Targets
A numerical target does, by definition, make things black or white. You either hit the target or you miss it. Metrics not only tell us where we are right now, but where we aren’t right now. They tell us what we need to be aiming for, and therefore what we shouldn’t be aiming for. All this is important to know what establishing success looks like – another term for setting targets. For example:
“I now know why my church is not growing. Let’s rethink our focus and targets accordingly.”
3. Church Metrics Shape Systems
It’s very awkward when money dries up, time runs out or resources are exhausted. Somehow along the way, someone forgot to track these and it was only noticed when it was too late! When you know you need to monitor something, you create a system or process to do that. Without such a system, you might be setting yourself up to fail. For example:
“I now know why my church is not growing. Let’s build a system that will help us track this area”
4. Church Metrics Reveal Progress
How do you know if you are making headway or not? How do you know if you are on track, ahead of schedule, or behind the curve? That’s right, numbers. The numbers inform leadership decisions and course corrections – but only if you track them! For example:
“I now know why my church is not growing. Let’s keep an eye on this area so we can see how it is performing”
5. Church Metrics Show What Is Really Happening
Numbers tell us trends – increase, decrease, and fluctuation. They show us whether these trends are constant and ongoing, or up and down. Depending on what they are measuring, this information may cause us to be thankful, concerned, focused or relieved! For example:
“I now know why my church is not growing. Let’s talk about it!”
Simply put, church metrics matter. We can’t steward what we don’t count. That’s why my Church Health Assessment process includes metric analysis. As well as measuring the metrics of the fifteen keys to church health, I help churches identify and interpret crucial data around five areas of metrics – growth, reach, integration, finances, and facilities.
Each of these five areas contains essential information vital for our understanding, so we can respond and increase the health of our churches.
This post is part of a series looking at Assessing Church Health. You can find the others here:
- Why Assessing Church Health Is Important
- Why Numbers Matter When Assessing Church Health
- Assessing Five Key Areas of Organisational Health
- Assessing Five Key Areas of Spiritual Health
- Assessing Five Key Areas of Leadership Health
- Assessing Five Key Growth Metrics & Trends
I have developed some FREE church health assessments for leaders. To find out more about them, click here.