Get ready to measure

Measuring results might seem dull ministry compared to membership development, leadership development, spiritual development, and other hands-on ministries of the healthy church.

But a key component of wellness is outcome-based decision-making — that is, making decisions about allocation of resources, such as time, attention, energy, and of course money, according to the results they yield. Facing limited resources, as we assuredly do, we have an obligation to use resources wisely and effectively.

If something isn’t working, we can stop doing it. If it shows promise but sputters, we can make it stronger. If an initiative succeeds, make it even better and keep on.

In church work, as in business, it is necessary to be nimble, to read “markets,” to see actual needs, as opposed to assumed needs, and to change direction promptly. Otherwise, like automakers trying to sell large trucks to people who don’t want to buy trucks, we could find ourselves drifting toward bankruptcy.

There is no shame in failure. Not every venture succeeds. The shame lies in not seeing failure and not responding to it.

Now, therefore, is a good time to strengthen your metrics. Here are some basic measurements that you should plan to take and to staff accordingly:

•           Sunday worship attendance — counted consistently and accurately every Sunday by people trained to do effective counting.

•           Sunday School attendance — children and families are indicators of present reach and future needs.

•           Weekday education participation — dying churches try to do it all on Sunday, lively churches bring people back during the week.

•           Count of Sunday visitors — the key to new member ministries is knowing how many visitors you have on a Sunday.

•           Response to Sunday visitors — the next step is responding consistently and effectively to visitors.

•           Join rate — how many visitors eventually join? A low rate suggests problems with response and/or with offerings.

•           Profile of visitors and new members — the old saying among church developers is, “If you want to see your future, look at the last twenty families to join your church.” This is especially important to recognize if the profile shows substantial variance from the current profile.

The more you want to accomplish, the more you should plan on measuring. In the Church Wellness Project, we offer additional guidance. But these metrics are the minimum.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant, and Episcopal priest based in New York City. He is the author of Just Wondering, Jesus, and the founder of the Church Wellness Project.