We talk a lot about numbers at The Unstuck Group. In fact, we’ve even written a book on measuring church health. With that, we often get questions about how you can actually measure ministry effectiveness. Questions such as…
- “If we don’t know many guests don’t fill out the Connection Card, how can we know how many guests we actually have?”
- “What is the best way to measure small group participation? Sign-ups? Weekly attendance? Number of groups?”
- “When I count the number of volunteers we have, how often should someone be serving to be counted?”
The real challenge in creating a ministry dashboard is this: Ministry lacks a clear bottomline.
There is no single metric that ultimately defines success. Additionally, our churches are relationally-driven organizations, each with unique factors that impact how we monitor effectiveness.
While I could never offer you a one-size-fits-all approach to developing your ministry dashboard, I can offer a set of best practices based on our experience measuring the Vital Signs of hundreds of churches. Apply these principles within your context and I’m confident you’ll develop a great dashboard to help you navigate the future.
Start with Big Next Steps, Not Every Detail
When you’re first introducing a dashboard in your organization, the goal is momentum, not perfection. If you begin by trying to track every detail, you’ll overwhelm leaders and never gain traction. Instead, pick a few big steps you’re leading people toward. I’d suggest Weekend Attendance, Small Group Participation, Volunteering, Children’s Ministry and Student Ministry. As you engage leaders with broad metrics, you’ll incite curiosity about the details that eventually lead to deeper metrics.
Recognize That No Metric is Perfect
I’ve studied a lot of spreadsheets over the years and there’s one thing I can say for sure: There is no perfect ministry metric. You can bang your head against the wall trying to determine the exact number of guests visiting. You can work tirelessly to calculate small group attendance with perfection. But I can assure you it will be off in some way. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can move on to actually doing something with the data. Which brings us to #3…
A Consistent Process is More Valuable Than a “Perfect” Metric
What you can’t have in the perfect metric you can make up for in a consistent process over time. Why? Because when you track the same thing in the same way over time, you begin to identify patterns and trends. For example, not every guest completes a Connection Card. But if you consistently track the number of guests who do complete the card, you still get a sense as to whether you are reaching more or less guests over time. That’s where the data becomes information.
Recognize the Difference Between Data and Information
Data is nothing more than a set of numbers. It shows up in statements like, “We had 1,387 people in average attendance last year.” Information is what the data is teaching you about your organization. For example, “We had 13% less people in average attendance this year as compared to last.” Data is used to justify decisions leaders already made in their minds. Information exposes unseen problems, drives new insights, and incites change.
Do you have a ministry dashboard that truly enhances the perspective of your leadership team? If not, it’s likely time to develop one. You might use the Vital Signs eBook to begin the conversation with your team. Then select a few metrics that align with your priorities and review them on a weekly or monthly basis. Doing so will surely reveal new insights, heightening the perspective from which you lead.