Part 2 of 2
In Part 1, we described a disturbing phenomenon – how more churchgoers in America today demand churches live up to their expectations, causing fewer churches to ask churchgoers to live up to the Lord’s expectations of them.
Bad metrics perpetuate the Church’s decline…
Strategies align with vision. Metrics align with strategy. Incenting behaviors consistent with strategy is the only way to ultimately achieve vision. Bad metrics are symptomatic of bad strategy. Bad strategy in the church today stems from misdefinition of its intended, Biblical “customer”. Define the “customer” correctly and you’ll get the metrics right. Try to grow membership, attendance and giving and you’ll be inclined to cater rather than challenge, treating members as “customers”. Measure disciple-building, community impact and engagement in ministry and you’ll become more bold in calling members to BE the church to the real “customer” – the world around them.
The latter metrics hold church members to a simple yet critical standard for Christian life – the Great Commission. They reflect Jesus’ model for evangelism – demonstrating his love first, then telling them who He is. Churches who count heads and dollars will hesitate to challenge members to live up to those essential, Biblical expectations. What the Lord asks of His church requires a level of commitment and life change most members don’t think they signed up for when they joined. For church leaders, it also requires a leap of faith. Redefining the “customer”, raising expectations of members, and abandoning long-held, institution-building metrics – regardless of the outcome – isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do.
Churches who won’t take that risk enable members to remain “casual” Christians, regular attenders who never become disciples – or produce other disciples. Those “adolescents” rarely arrive at the level of spiritual maturity where love and compassion drives them out of their armchairs to serve and witness to the hurting and lost around them. They show up and give, but don’t look a whole lot like Jesus. They drive more away from church than they bring to it.
Should churches be measuring anything?
Hear me right. I’m not advocating more metrics for churches – just different ones. Frankly, having no measures would be better than using the current ones. Any metrics that incent church leaders to do the following should be scrapped:
- Hang on to members and givers by catering to their needs
- Enable members to “consume” church by asking little of them
- Stand by as members/attenders fail to live out the Great Commission
- Avoid challenging them to serve regularly in ministry outside the church
- Not encourage members regularly to give to causes outside the church
Aren’t those exactly what tracking membership, attendance and giving leads pastors to do?
We hear more and more that churches are being run like businesses. The wrong definition of the “customer” is the reason why. Attract people, meet their needs, exceed their expectations and the church will grow and revenues will increase. Churches who subscribe to that school of thought measure success along business lines – member satisfaction, loyalty, engagement and giving. Those metrics work for companies because their customers are external, but they’re inappropriate for churches because members are “insiders”, not customers. No wonder churchgoers “shop” today.
If you’re going to track something, track this…
What if churches turned the tables on church “shoppers”? What types of expectations or measures would challenge members to become more devoted followers of Jesus Christ? What metrics would get them to pursue the church’s real “customer” – the lost in the community – and thereby grow their church?
Counting heads and dollars obviously isn’t working – it’s not convincing churchgoers to attend and give more – 93% of churches in America aren’t growing. The irony is more people would show up and be more generous if the churches would redefine its “customer”, which calls for a new set of performance metrics. Seeing the lost outside the “4 walls” as the prospective “customer” entails gauging how effective “insiders” are in pursuing “outsiders” after they leave the building on Sunday. All successful organizations trade in internally-focused objectives that cause “insiders” to look out for their own interests for customer-oriented measures that coalesce everyone around assessing and meeting the customer’s needs.
The following new measures would dramatically change how churches make every decision and steer the congregation’s actions and behaviors in the right direction. Decisions and actions would be based on the optimal strategies for bringing as many people to Christ as possible, whether or not they currently attend the church.
If the church IS the membership yet members are “consumers” of the church – how can the church be healthy? Members can’t be both the church and the “customer”. The health of any organization depends on proper understanding of respective roles and incentives to perform each well.
Unfortunately modern American church growth strategies that appeal to “consumers” can grow a church yet make it unhealthy and ineffective at the same time. Growth does not always imply health.
Health can be measured by a Balanced Scorecard for churches. In business, a Balanced Scorecard consists of 4 dimensions, each of which has an application for churches:
1. “Learning” – i.e. Discipleship
Don’t stop at tracking professions and baptisms. Determine whether those baby Christians become mature Christians:
- # & % of Members Living out the Great Commission (i.e. # of Disciples Made)
- # & % of Congregation Engaged in 1-on-1 or in Triad Discipleship within the Church
- # of People Outside the Church Being Discipled by our Members
2. “Processes” – i.e. Empowerment
Process improvement shouldn’t be geared around providing an exciting or engaging experience for visitors and attenders. Those position congregations as “customers” and put undue emphasis on institution-building. Instead processes should be built around strategies to empower and equip churchgoers, leveraging them to bring as many “outsiders” to Christ as possible (not to simply invite people to church). Metrics aligned with this decentralized view include:
- # of Lay Leaders Trained to Run Neighborhood Groups and Local Missions Teams
- # of Local Ministries Launched by Church Leadership and Members
- # of Unchurched Who Have Joined a Neighborhood/Small Group
- # of Members Deployed into Ministry Leadership Positions
3. “Customer” – i.e. Community Impact
Church size and growth are not definitive or accurate proxies for impact. Better measures of a church’s impact and influence on the world around it relate to the church’s reach, footprint, and progress in addressing pressing issues in the community (your real “customer”) regardless of whether those impacted show up at your church:
- # of Lives Touched and Led to Christ by Members Living out Jesus’ Model for Evangelism (loving and serving, then telling them who He is)
- # & % of Congregation Actively Engaged in Ministry Outside the Church
- # of Families Helped During Church-Sponsored Service Events/Activities
- Cause-Related Metrics (e.g. Decrease in # of Local Homeless, Orphans and Shut-ins, # of Single Moms Assisted, # of Prisoners Reformed, # of People in Recovery Getting Back on Track)
4. “Financial” – i.e. Generosity
Measure your generosity as a church, not member generosity with the church:
- % of Church Budget Allocated to Internal and External Local Missions Efforts
- $s Allocated by the Church to Each Selected Local “Cause”
- Return on those Investments (ROI) – e.g. making neighborhoods safer, stabilizing families, and improving school systems
- $s Given by Members to Causes and Ministries Outside the Church
It’s your turn…
Do church leaders have the right to expect anything of members? In other words, is measuring something better than nothing? If so, are our proposed Balanced Scorecard metrics good measures for aligning a church with the redefinition of its “customer”?