Beyond the One Dimensional Scorecard: Count Vertically AND Measure Horizontally

Disclaimer: I’m not a certified church growth expert. I’ve not written a book on growing churches, nor do I pastor a large church that’s had a ton of numerical growth. But in talking with a very good friend of mine I’ve thought through some ideas and wanted to share my thoughts on measuring growth.end of disclaimer

Previously, I’ve blogged about the Fellowbackgrangepoint Church model as a way of trying to describe what I’ve seen happening with churches. You might have your own church model that might look more like the Willoharvesttemple Church or the Friendshipcommunityofbible Church or any other mash-up of churches that your leadership has tried to emulate.

At the end of the day there’s a lot of ‘me too’ churches that are honest and sincere in their application of proven lessons. But the results are an overlay of formats that are missing the key ingredient: who God called your church to uniquely be.

There seem to be a couple of prevalent schools of thought floating around:

  1. Measure attendance, because each number is a life in need of Christ
  2. Measure discipleship growth, because life change matters most

Why is it either/or instead of both/and? If a church has 10 people that go very deep in studying Scripture and are a tight-knit fellowship of believers, but never reach people in need of Jesus, they’re ignoring the Great Commission (go and make disciples). Conversely, if a church has a huge front door with thousands coming in and nearly as large back door with thousands going out, why aren’t they discipling those people who are in and out?

So here’s the question I want to posit:

If we count involvement vertically (attendance) and measure growth horizontally (how many serving/changing lives), our metric system is holistically valid.

Obviously, measuring attendance is a lot easier than measuring changed lives. But isn’t that worth the effort? I think it is.

We have to be careful in implementing this process, as it would be very easy for a leader to stop counting and begin judging those who are growing and serving with personal life-change. Yet, with a solid leadership infrastructure and a commitment of group leaders, capturing both anecdotal as well as tangible data is very do-able. In the end, I don’t think we should look for a hard and fast number for the horizontal growth, but maybe more of a barometer that gives an honest and accurate sampling of the result.

Given the plethora of church management systems software packages available, I know first-hand that the right reporting tools exist. The question is, are we being trained to use them to capture both the vertical and the horizontal?

How about your church? Is this honestly what’s happening? Or do you find yourself in an either/or situation?

It’s time for a new scorecard – one that counts vertically AND measures horizontally.


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Anthony Coppedge

Anthony Coppedge

On the team at Auxano. Lover of Jesus, my wife and my kids. Unapologetic Apple fanboy. Slightly addicted to MindMaps, but in a good way.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Anthony Coppedge — 04/02/14 11:09 am

Deb, The concept of a barometer is key to measuring horizontally; a barometer has a number of where it is...but the point of a barometer is less about the current number and more focused on both the increase/decrease of that number and the rate of change. Is the air pressure increasing or decreasing - and how quickly is it doing that? Similarly, we're looking for ways to understand Life Change, which is a relationally-driven measurement; we want to know how people are doing spiritually (good - increase; not so good; decrease) and their rate of change (have they begun to disciple others). So, it's possible to look at anecdotal information from group leaders, volunteer team leaders, pastors, deacons, elders, etc. to provide insight into the spiritual growth and well-being of their congregation. From a reporting standpoint, the old axiom of "you only get out what you put in" holds true. Every major church management system has relatively simple ways of getting pertinent information into the system, associated with the person/family. And while this is helpful for reporting on individual situations, it's more helpful to use as a trend analysis tool for the general rate of change (like the barometer) congregation-wide. Nothing replaces actionable insight like relational connection. Capturing snapshots of that information and providing trend analysis over time is a starting point for providing church leadership with the information that helps guide resource allocation and staffing utilization. Does that make sense, Deb? - Anthony Coppedge

Deb Troxel — 10/18/13 2:54 pm

I'd love to hear what tools others have found effective for measuring horizontally. When my congregation faced that question we developed an assessment tool with personalized resource guidance. The tool sets out clearly articulated goals, provides measures for church leaders, and encourages personal growth in members. We've made the tool available for other congregations - you can learn more at

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
— Debra
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
— Laurie
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)

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