Part 1 of 2
This is the first of two parts on “performance measurement”. That sounds like a business term but churches do it every week – how many showed up and how much did they give. Churches budget expenses and expect each staff member to pull his/her own weight. Performance objectives are established around a set of goals, which tie back to what the church views as its priorities.
- If member acquisition and retention is the primary goal, then the metrics will reflect that, e.g.:
- If building and sending disciples is the primary goal, then the church will measure:
- Involvement in discipleship
- Lives impacted and changed (whether inside or outside the church)
- Engagement in internal and external ministry
Which of those two sets of measures are tracked more closely at your church?
Those two goals are not mutually exclusive…
- More members can mean more disciples if the church offers discipleship programs beyond small groups
- More attendance can mean more lives changed if the church is aggressive in challenging them
- More giving can mean more engagement in impactful ministries if the church invests heavily in empowering and equipping leaders
However, which set of metrics take precedence demonstrates whether a church views its members or the community as its “customer”. In other words, they drive where the church invests the bulk of its time, energy and money. Is the church building programs to “please” members (to drive up the 1st set of metrics) or to prepare members to pursue the real “customer” (the 2nd set)?
Because the impact, influence and perception of the Church in America are in decline it’s clear that churches aren’t turning enough members into disciples, attendees into world-changers, and dollars into difference. As we’ve contended throughout this blog series, few churches have made the transition from the 1st set to the 2nd set of metrics.
Who’s evaluating who these days?
The 2nd set (discipleship, life change and ministry) demands significant commitment by members. They are big asks – and risky considering that the balance of power today has tipped in favor of members. The law of supply and demand has given churchgoers the upper hand:
…the vast number of churches, each carrying fixed expenses that have to be covered
…going after a shrinking “pie” of frequent attenders
…each of whom gives less today
…in a landscape filled with more Walmart churches, making life difficult for “mom-and-pop shops”
…with seminaries producing significant numbers of aspiring pastors every year
The math will only get worse – fewer people and funds to spread over the remaining base of facilities – if churches continue chasing after the wrong “customer”. Investing a limited pool of resources in trying to keep the lights on by attracting and retaining members is a losing game. The pie will continue to shrink if churches keep ignoring the real “customer” – the community where the church is planted.
How much leverage do churches have today? Are churches in a position to raise expectations of members? There are plenty of churches down the road ready to cater to their every whim – “people pleasing” churches who thank members profusely for barely doing anything – spoiling spiritual children. The mindset of most pastors today is far from increasing member standards and accountability. Upsetting the apple cart could mean a faction revolts and splits the church, spelling potential doom, particularly if a patriarch or matriarch leads the mutiny.
Churchgoers today “shop” for churches, looking for the one that best meets their needs. They leave if churches aren’t meeting their expectations. Meanwhile, pastors read books and articles, selecting from among a wide range of church growth strategies trying to find the path to revitalization. The scales have tipped.
What does the Bible say?
The Bible says members ARE the church. Paul’s and John’s letters speak directly to the churches – meaning not just the pastors and staff, but the members themselves. Those letters hold all members to account for their actions, not just the leaders. Members weren’t seen evaluating churches – members were being evaluated based on the standards set by Jesus Christ. In fact, the concept of members evaluating the church was an oxymoron in the New Testament. Members were the church – there was no institution apart from them. If the church was screwing up, it was on them.
Because members are the church and the community is its “customer” – as Jesus, His disciples and the early Church modeled – performance measures should be aligned with those respective roles. Members are “insiders”, much more like employees of a company – and, like employees, can and should be held to a performance standard. Churches who are reluctant to do so are treating them like “outsiders” – or “customers”.
How to begin raising standards…
Leaders should raise expectations of members rather than striving to meet their expectations. However, that’s not possible unless church leaders are willing to…
- Redefine – Consider and treat members as the church and the community as the “customer”
- Reprioritize – Put the mission first and institution second, diverting less attention to maintaining the church (institution) and more to building and sending disciples. That may mean few fixed costs and fewer programs and services that “please” members.
- Set New Goals – Reorient metrics from the 1st set to the 2nd set above
- Empower – As we discussed the past few weeks, train and put lay leaders in a position to “recruit” and mobilize others to venture into the (local and international) mission field
- Equip – Devote pastor and staff time to training/discipleship and commit church dollars to externally-focused initiatives run by lay leaders
- Direct – Have the courage to challenge members to live out the Great Commission, and network to find opportunities and causes where the church can engage non-believers
- Track and Monitor – Use measures as they’re intended – to incent action and modify behaviors – possibly pulling folks well outside their comfort zones. Ensure those actions flow out of gratitude for the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ as opposed to a sense of duty.
It’s your turn…
Is it reasonable to hold members to a standard of performance? At what point in a Christian’s walk with the Lord are they ready to be challenged with the Great Commission? Have you seen a church break the “consumer” mindset and turn the tables, expecting members to perform rather than vice versa?