Note: In a previous post, I explained why Numbers Count in Your Ministry. Click here to read.
I have a (healthy) obsession with ministry numbers. Numbers are not everything in ministry, but I believe the right numbers are important. Never forget that numbers represent people and people matter to God, so they should matter to you.
There are many different numbers a church could analyze. Not all numbers are created equal. My experience partnering with churches to clarify their vision and focus their ministry tells me that there are some numbers that are vitally important to track.
1. Weekly Worship Attendance
Many mainline denominational churches focus on the total number of members in their database as a measurement of church size or growth. I believe that this is not an adequate measure of your ministry. Membership today is not what it used to be in decades past. The whole idea of membership is foreign to many people and it is not a good indicator of someone's involvement in your ministry. If you are honest, there is a good percentage of your membership database that should be "cleaned up" and taken off your roles. While not a perfect measurement of your ministry size or reach, I find that weekly worship attendance is a key number to keep track of. At the least, it gives you a good idea of those who are active or marginally active in your ministry.
You should figure weekly worship attendance in the following way:
Sunday Worship Attendance + Sunday Children's Ministry Attendance + Special services (midweek, Christmas services, other worship services) divided by the numbers of weeks in your ministry year (likely 52) = Your Weekly Worship Attendance.
Be sure to throw out any outliers that would significantly impact your numbers. Example: My home church worships around 1,000 a week, except when it snowed an inch in the midwest and everyone freaked out and around 400 hearty souls came to church on a Sunday a few months ago. If you were only to keep track of one ministry number, it should be your weekly worship attendance. But, you should keep track of a few more.
2. The number of people taking a Next Step
Defining what steps people should take in your ministry is important work - it is some of the most rewarding work that I do with churches. Whatever your next step expectation for people is, it should be important and if it is important, you should keep track of it. If the next step for someone who attends worship at your church is to join a small group or Bible study, then count the number of people who are taking that step. If your next step for someone who has been around for a year is for them to give a percentage of their income, then count the number of people who commit to percentage giving. Keeping track of those taking their next step is key to encouraging individual spiritual growth and measuring your church's effectiveness in maturing disciples.
3. The number of people who give
Martin Luther once said, “There are three conversions a person needs to experience: The conversion of the head, the conversion of the heart, and the conversion of the pocketbook.” I believe generous giving is an important part of discipleship and your ministry should be teaching and encouraging people to give not because your church budget needs it but because giving is an important part of discipleship. However you measure who is giving is fine, just count the number of people doing it. I suggest keeping track of the number of people who give something, the number who have committed to percentage giving, and the number who have pledged to tithe.
4. The number of first-time guests
If current worship trends continue, you will need 4 first-time guests each week for every 100 attendees to maintain your current size over the next 5 to 10 years. Want to grow? You will need more. The number of visitors will also give you an idea of how your community sees and values your church.
5. The percentage of guests who stick around
Average churches see around 10 percent of their first-time guests become regular attendees. Fast-growing churches see around 30 percent. Keep track of your number.
6. The number of engagements on social media
This is a new number for most churches, but a number that is increasingly important to track. Social media can be used to effectively draw people to your community and inform/invite them to events. For people that are already part of your ministry, their level of engagement on social media can tell you about their actual engagement in your ministry. Most of the major social media sites/apps have analytics built in or a third party app that can do the same. I don't believe there is a magic number of social media engagements to strive toward. I do believe that growth and a general month to month or year to year growth curve are important.
What numbers does your church keep track of? Let me know!
I was a few months into a new ministry leadership position when a church member asked to speak with me. When we spoke over a cup of coffee he expressed his appreciation for the work that I was doing and offered the following opinion: “the work you are doing is great and I appreciate all you have done so far. But, you seem a bit obsessed with the numbers.” I thanked him for his compliment! I explained that I do have a healthy obsession with numbers in the church. I care deeply about numbers. I know that behind every number is a person. Every number can tell a story - a story of someone who needs Jesus.
I unapologetically focus on numbers as a way of expressing what I believe to be the central mission of the local church - to connect people to Jesus. I take seriously the words of Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus makes the command to make disciples of all nations. In ministry, I believe that more disciples are better than fewer disciples. I believe that fewer in hell is a good thing. To be frank, I have a hard time understanding why anyone, much less someone who works in ministry, would disagree with that. I may have a hard time understanding it, but I am not surprised by it. I have heard and read the "numbers don't represent real growth" and "clear teaching of sound doctrine is the only thing that matters" speeches and blog posts. I do not think that numbers are the only thing that matters. In my simple way of thinking, I see it this way:
More followers of Jesus = Good
Fewer followers of Jesus = Bad
In my reading of scripture, I have never come across a limit that Jesus put on how many people that He wanted the church to reach. In fact, the book of Mark refers several times to "large crowds" following Jesus. The book of Acts constantly points out the specific numbers of people following the early church and borderline brags about the growth that it was experiencing.
When someone connects to Jesus in your church, it is a reason to celebrate!
Two Important Thoughts on Ministry Numbers
1. Numbers do not matter without a mission.
If the only thing you are doing is counting people, and that is your bottom line, you are missing the point. If a business only counted the number of customers it had, it would lose sight of the quality of their product, customer service, and the reason they started the business in the first place. If your numbers are not connected to your clear mission, you are counting in vain. Numbers are a means to an end. They help measure where you are with what is most important to you. I partner with churches to help clarify their mission and focus on what is important.
2. Numbers count regardless of church size.
When talking about numbers in ministry, most discussion or debate tends to center around what size church is best. Most often, smaller churches or churches in decline will say numbers don't mean that much. Larger or growing churches may focus on growing numbers; to a fault. When speaking of numbers in ministry, church size does not matter. Every single person sitting in a pew in a small country church that worships 35 on a Sunday counts. Every single person sitting in a folding chair in a strip mall church plant that worships 11 on a Sunday counts. Every single person sitting in a cozy padded seat in a mega church that worships 12,000 on a Sunday counts. Every single person sitting on the red clay dirt under a tree in Africa with a thousand of their local villagers worshiping God counts.
In my next post, I will look at what numbers a church should pay attention to. What should I include? Let me know!
I think that some of the toughest, mentally draining work that a leader can do is the task of taking something that is complex and making it simple.
I came across the term Simplexity a while ago and think it aptly explains this task. Engaging in Simplexity is one of the most valuable things that you can do for your ministry. You are in a unique place as a leader. It is likely that you and only you are in a position to understand the information, discussion, collaboration, and sweat that has gone into building an idea or initiative. It is your job to boil it down to a simple idea that people understand and can support.
This is important - just ask Apple or Google who excel at making things simple. Better yet, ask the former leaders in their industries, Microsoft and Yahoo!. Skipping the steps of making the complex simple will lead to confusion, frustration, and possible failure.
I have spent the better part of the past two weeks trying to make some Simplexity happen. I serve as the Church Administrator in my local church as my full-time job. The last few weeks have been largely devoted to developing our Annual Ministry Plan. This is the organizational document that drives our entire ministry and fiscal budget for the next year. It's kind of a big deal.
Hours, days, weeks, and months go into preparing this plan. It would take me an hour to describe the priorities and details of the plan to an informed audience. No one (not even my mother) would listen if I attempted to explain the full process that we went through to decide some of the priorities and details. I have about five minutes at one meeting and maybe an email or two to communicate this important item to an audience that was not a part of the process and may or may not be interested in listening.
As I stared at the work that had been done, I labored to make things simple for those who were not part of the process. I ended up making three options for an interested person to choose for themselves how much information they wanted.
Option #1 An 8x11 handout with only a headline and graphic/picture that explained our plan.
Option #2 An 8x11 handout with an outline of 3 major priorities and a few sub-points under each.
Still high-level. Still not overly complicated.
Option #3 A full 15-page printout of the entire ministry plan. I figured that there just might be someone other than me who might be interested!
I'm sure that Option #1 is the preferred option for most of our church community, with a few wanting the next level of detail contained in Option #2.
It's a work in progress for sure. Making the complex simple always is.
4 Ways to Practice Simplexity in Your Ministry
1. Do simple often.
As a leader, make sure you take multiple opportunities to communicate your vision in clear, easy to
understand ways. No business jargon or churchy language. Simple aids understanding. If you want
to practice communicating in simple terms, practice in front of kids. They will let you know if you are too complicated!
2. One priority, not three.
If you communicate something, such as the Sunday message or organizational goals, limit your communication to one primary point that your communication is built around. What is the one most important thing? What is the one most important action you want someone to take? I understand the practice of the three-point sermon or three point business-talk outline. The more I lead and communicate, the more convinced I am that multiple priorities are just competing for space in people's minds and lives. Simplexity is key to help people learn and grow.
3. Build Simple on a Firm Foundation.
Structure your entire ministry in a simple, easy to understand way. This makes communicating somuch easier! This is one of the ways that I work with ministries to help them grow.
4. Make Simplexity Your Filter.
When you are communicating something important, use the filter of Simplexity. Always ask: Is this the simplest way I can explain this? If your answer is yes, then you are ready to communicate your priorities. If the answer is no, then you have more work to do.
How are you making the complex simple in your Ministry?
What is the point of Strategic Planning for your ministry?
Church ministry is intense and time-consuming, both for staff and volunteer leaders. It often takes everything we have just to keep up with the routine – preaching, stewardship, leading volunteers, managing conflict, caring, and ministering to families. Every now and then at a conference or meeting leaders will hear fragments of phrases like ‘long-range planning’, ‘vision’, ‘strategic planning’, and we think ‘That stuff is great, but we are neck deep and treading water just keeping up with the day to day.'
The fact is that thoughtful planning - strategic planning – helps us in the areas where we are most burdened – time management, priorities, responsibilities, and leadership challenges. Strategic planning may well be the most crucial step in maximizing the effectiveness of your ministry.
The most important thing to know about strategic planning is that it is a process, not a project or a product. There is often more value in the strategic planning process than in the end result. Strategic planning is an often-renewable exchange of information, ideas, dreams, hopes, and vision that will keep your ministry sharp, passionate, and focused.
You could attempt to undertake this planning effort on your own. I wouldn't recommend it. I wrote about why that is the case in another blog post. As the most important aspect of strategic planning is the process, there is value in having someone facilitate your process. My experience facilitating these conversations with ministries tells me that the ideas, honest discussion, and clarity that is gained are well worth the resources put into the effort.
How would your ministry benefit from a static planning process?
Do you think it is worth the time and effort?
Let me know!
There is often more value in the strategic planning process than in the end result.
1. Have someone outside your organization lead your process.
This is critical. If for no other reasons than good communication, organization of the process, and credibility.
2. Remember that strategic planning is more than an event; it’s a process.
Once you’ve developed the plan, your work is just beginning.
3. Educate participants to the strategic planning process.
This is another responsibility of a consultant who is leading your process. Without the understanding of basic concepts, your plan will just be words on paper.
4. Communicate your strategy.
Once you’ve developed your strategic plan, let all of your stakeholders know about it…multiple times in multiple ways.
5. Keep your plan alive.
Specific actions steps should be spelled out as a part of your process. Following these steps is crucial to keeping the vision alive in your organization.
6. Link your strategic plan to your budgeting process.
There is nothing like putting our money where your mouth is. One way people and organizations show commitment is through their wallet.
What other tips do you think are important? Let me know!
I found these great suggestions from the Under30CEO
1. Successful people exercise their body first thing in the morning to gain energy for the rest of the day.
2. Successful people plan their day before taking on their first task.
3. Successful people do the most important tasks first before moving on to a smaller one.
4. Successful people take risks.
5. Successful people take full responsibility for their life and business.
6. Successful people read 30-60 minutes every day.
7. Successful people are grateful.
Read more at http://under30ceo.com/7-things-successful-people-every-day/#xSGYOp8oJsLvL06z.99