In the Numbers: Embracing Stats as a Vital Ministry Tool

I love statistics! I know what you’re thinking…I’m a nerd. Possibly. But, the truth is there are more nerds than you realize when it comes to statistics.

Stats a important for a number of reasons, and, although they can easily be misused or misconstrued, overall they can be helpful to pastors and others in ministry. Here are three reasons why.

Those of you who know me know my tentative relationship with all things sports. But, with our move to Wheaton I wanted to approach our new home missionally, so, I took in a Chicago Cubs game.

It isn’t that I know nothing of sports; I just haven’t kept up much. Going to the see the Cubs play, I’m learning the players, balls, strikes, touchdowns, and the like.

Even though I haven’t been that guy as a sports fan, Donna and I went to see Moneyballwhile it was in theaters. Now, almost everyone thought it was a movie about baseball—or about Brad Pitt—but it wasn’t. At least not at the core.

Moneyball was all about statistics—analyzing players’ performance, then selecting and playing those players based upon advanced stats. Home runs, hits, runs scored, and RBIs were recreated in aggregate, often using cast-off players, rather than one superstar player. It was a revolutionary approach to the game, and it was based on a statistical foundation.

Statistics, of course, aren’t limited to sports. What about those of you who are investors? Do you research the performance of a company that you are thinking about investing your money in? Sure you do.

What about those who have an important and possibly dangerous surgery coming up, do you want to know the odds of a successful surgery and recovery? Of course. Very few people want to go into it with no idea of the possible outcomes.

Numbers and statistics are part of our daily lives. Pastors and church leaders should embrace them as part of ministry.

How then do we use them?

Before I share how we should use statistics, let me share why some uses fail. Statistics shouldn’t be used to change a priori assumptions. For instance, we should not stop trusting scripture simply because someone may get up and say 74% of people believe the Bible isn’t what we think it is, so let’s stop believing it. The truth is that the Bible is authoritative regardless of what others say.

Also, statistics shouldn’t be used to determine how we do ministry. For instance, just because someone gets up and says that 90 percent of the church plants today implement the Launch Big model, doesn’t mean we should implement the same model in our next church plant.

Statistics shouldn’t be used to change our definitive beliefs nor determine how we do ministry. But they can be used in the following ways.

Statistics Help Define Reality.

Have you ever heard the statement, “facts are our friends”? It’s true. Statistics can be our friends in helping us determine reality. Statistics provide us information on people’s thoughts and behaviors. In short, they give us a starting point. For example, one research project showed the majority of people in the 7,000 subject churches were not using their gifts.

For many pastors and leaders this would have come as a shock. Others may say, “That explains a lot.” Either way, it helps pastors and leaders understand reality both for themselves, their church’s leaders, and other members.

Statistics Help Teach People.

Beyond defining reality, statistics can be used to help people understand how the church is engaging or not engaging. Research can demonstrate how the church thinks and why the church responds to certain issues.

Research is often a needed tool pastors can use to change a church’s opinion. If a pastor says, “We should build a gym to help the community” the church might question the expense. But, if the pastor says, “Ten percent of the population within 3 miles of our church are under 17 years old, and most of them have nothing to do after school. If we built a gymnasium we could run multiple ministries to meet their needs and maybe open their hearts to the gospel.” Those statistics paint a different picture that help many understand why the cost might be worth it.

Statistics Help Leaders Make Strategic Decisions.

The first use of statistics helps us define reality by giving us a bases and foundation. The second use of statistics helps us teach people, especially our leaders and members. The third, and probably most important, use of statistics is that they help us make strategic decisions.

If churches understood that one of the reasons why people weren’t using their gifts was because they didn’t know how, the leaders could then make strategic decisions as to howthey should teach their people how to use their gifts. As a result, churches could offer classes, produce material, preach a series, or write a blog series on spiritual gifts with the goal of reversing the statistics by changing the reality.

Statistics can also help determine what staff member to add next, when and where to have small groups, how many groups can be started each new semester, or how demographic changes should change outreach efforts.

In short, statistics are a great tool to assist pastors and leaders in being more effective and leading their churches or organizations to be more effective as well.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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10 “Different Numbers” That Really Matter

Being loyal to a denomination, I’m no stranger to filling out forms and reporting stats. There are good reasons for this accountability, and we at 12Stone® Church are good team players in the Wesleyan Church. We report all numbers requested. I’m not saying it’s fun, but it’s a healthy practice.

We also keep a demographic spreadsheet of more numbers than you could imagine, from attendance to car counts. Again, these stats are kept for good and practical reasons. They help us in everything from decision-making to setting budgets. But I’ve been thinking about the things we care about, things that are more difficult if not near impossible to track, and started making a list.

I’m not sure how well we track all of them. Some we are good at, others we might need to improve. We do chase stories of life change, and that is a great practice, but I think there may be more to learn about strengthening a local church ministry by knowing some of these “other numbers.”

How about you, how close of a pulse do you have to these ten in your church?

1. Serving the poor 

Jesus speaks much about caring for those in need and those who are poor among us. A mark of a strong and healthy church is how it cares for people who may never attend and can do nothing for the church. Your church, and the one I serve, can’t help everyone, but I believe there are certain ones in need that God intends for us to serve.

2. Visitors that don’t look like you

When I travel to churches I’m amazed at how similar everyone looks. That’s not bad, I fully understand natural connections, culture, and how people invite friends. All good. But recently I sat by a twenty-something with some cool looking tats, a full sleeve, piercings and carried a well worn bible. He worshipped with passion and was warm and genuine when we said hi. He looked the opposite of me, (and way cooler). I couldn’t help but think that was a good thing and that God smiled.

3. Next Gen called to ministry

I will admit a personal passion and bias for this one. It seems to me that for nearly twenty years or more, we are losing ground on young “sharpies” being called to full time ministry nation wide. The church today is not attracting them enough for God to get a chance to capture their hearts. Yes, I know that God can call young leaders any way He wants, but He often uses the local church. The future of the church depends on the “best and brightest” being called and committed to vocational ministry. That’s one of the reasons we are so fired-up about our two-year post college residency training program for ministry students.

4. Restored marriages

Divorce is rampant. I think the accepted norm is that 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. We can’t settle for that as acceptable. Each time the ministry of your church helps to prevent a divorce that is a huge Kingdom win! That really matters! From pre-marital training, to biblical teaching, to workshops and referrals to professional therapists, all your efforts for strong marriages are worth it!

5. New Christians / Baptisms

This may be the most common number on this list, but I couldn’t write this article and not include it. Salvation is at the core of the Great Commission. A redeemed life is at the very epicenter of what we do! Each baptism represents an amazing story. I’m confident you feel the same about reaching people, and I want to encourage you to stay fired-up about seeing people come to Christ.

6. Addictions broken and Fear conquered

This may not be as common as divorce in our culture, but it’s more prevalent than I would have imagined, and far more so than twenty to twenty-five years ago. I won’t attempt to list addictions, the list is long, and we all understand fear. The point is that the freedom that comes from an individual breaking through and living out of bondage is incredibly powerful. Your church may not be equipped to deal with these complex issues, but there are organizations in your community you can partner with in order to help make a difference, even for a few.

7. First time tithers

When it comes to Christian maturity, the returning of a tithe from one’s income is often the last thing to happen in a Christian’s life. And for many, it never happens. It’s not about the money. Yes, your church needs money to operate, but it’s really about a surrendered life that chooses to trust God. Few things are more powerful than when someone realizes that they may be in charge but they are not in control. Be bold in your teaching about trusting God with finances!

8. New Leaders and Volunteers

Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. My personal belief is that it’s nearly impossible to over invest in leadership development. Leaders raise up volunteers and volunteers make ministry possible. Recruiting, inspiring, encouraging, training and empowering your volunteers is essential and your leaders will help you do that!

9. Hours devoted to prayer

I don’t really think we should count how many hours we pray, but I can’t help wonder what the correlation might actually be when you compare hours in prayer to the health and life change impact of a local church. I don’t think God is keeping score, but I do think He cares about what our heart treasures and how we chase after Him. Candidly, I believe prayer makes a huge difference, in fact, I think it is the true difference maker for any local church.

10. Kids treated with respect 

Jesus had some very clear thoughts about how we are to treat the children. How strong is your children’s ministry? Do you put as much effort toward the kids as you do the adults in “big church”? It’s not a competition, but doing your best in children’s ministry really matters. If your children’s ministry needs a lot of work, don’t stress over it, but commit to improving it a little bit at a time and you’ll be surprised at what can be accomplished in 6 to 9 months!

So there you have it –a list of ten different numbers. How would you evaluate your ministry with these ten? Are there one or two that you want to focus on? What would you take off this list? What would you add?

The Pastor’s Coach is written by Dr. Dan Reiland, and is available via a free email subscription. You can subscribe by clicking here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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Leaders Count People Because People Count

Fifty years ago, many churches had signs posted within the building showing weekly numbers on them: worship service attendance, Sunday School attendance, offering total, and even how many people brought their Bibles. We live in a different age now.

Today, some frown upon “counting.” But I actually think it’s worth doing – and doing better than we’ve ever done before.

There’s an old but true cliché: We count people because people count. We count because we care about the souls of each person we count. We count because we want to be effective in what we are doing.

Among our churches, we need to ask if we are reaching people. We need to ask if we are discipling people. Are we reaching our goals or are we falling short? These are important questions to ask and important things to count.

My contention is that we need to keep a scorecard. The challenge is in deciding what we are going to measure and how are we going to measure it. I’m convinced that the things we’ve been counting for years on those church attendance boards are helpful to count – but they’re not all we should count.

The two I believe we must count include those core ones that most churches are already counting: conversions and baptisms. But there are other areas that matter as well. They matter deeply to me, too.

Namely, we need to find out how to count transformation. Are people being transformed and becoming agents of God’s mission? Are they sharing Christ with their neighbors? Getting converts is great, but are they learning to live and grow as believers and are they sharing Christ with others? We must begin tracking discipleship and missional living.

I talk about measuring these things in Transformational Church, the book I coauthored with Thom Rainer. We have to consider things like:

  • What percentage of people in the church are serving?
  • How many are serving inside and outside the church?
  • How many are in small groups?
  • How many are being trained into leadership in groups and in the church?

Here’s a key: Some of these things are self-reported in groups. That’s a very helpful way to keep up with how God is using your people, and it takes minimal effort to keep track of it. It trains your people to be observant and proactive about those around them – those they are called to disciple and train.

So yes, we should count, but we need to count the right things. Sunday by Sunday, pastors and church leaders should get a report on, for instance, the percentage of people who were in small groups, the number of people who are on mission and ministry – and so on.

Metrics can help us know where we are and where we need to change. We need to be careful not to be slavishly driven by numbers, but to use them as a tool. And to that end, check out Transformational Discipleship Assessment for maturity issues and also the Transformational Church Assessment Tool. These are helpful tools for counting well, using the best measurables, and bringing health and strength to individual Christians and your church as a whole.

Measure your church over long periods of time and notice the trends, but I suggest that you keep track of the short-term numbers, too. There needs to be a regular keeping of data so that we can see our progress week to week.

As we learn more and more about our churches, we need to shore up some of the areas we discover are weak. But don’t downplay your church’s strengths. If the strength of your church is vibrant worship, for example, go with it.

Doing metrics and counting numbers actually can bless our churches and the communities around them. Learn to love the numbers that can better help you love the people they represent.

> Read more from Ed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
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9 Numbers That Indicate Healthy Church Growth

You are a lead pastor. You primarily occupy your time with casting vision, teaching Scripture, and leading your staff. But did you also know that you have a responsibility to play The Numbers Game?

If people matter to you, then numbers should too. Why? Because numbers are indicators that help leaders challenge or validate what they know to be true.

It’s more than measuring attendance and giving. It’s about leveraging every strategy, process, tool, and leadership position necessary to make sure no one falls through the cracks.

The Numbers Game—when properly measured and tracked—offers you valuable intelligence about the health and vitality of every facet of your church’s community-building efforts:

  1. Attendance. Tracking small group and event attendance is equally important, and it’s recommended that you track the faces who show up, not just the total numbers.
  2. Volunteers. By connecting volunteering to other factors like attendance, giving, serving, and leading, you’ll find those who volunteer tend to be more engaged overall.
  3. Missional Participation. Who is getting involved and who isn’t? Who has expressed a desire in missions but hasn’t participated?
  4. Online Activity. Where are people spending their time on your church’s website, and how are they using your site? This is vital to your overall Web strategy.
  5. Financial Giving. What does your church’s giving report tell you about growth? Watch for dramatic variances in giving over time. It is a sign of spiritual activity …or inactivity.
  6. Event Outcomes. It is necessary to connect every event to life change. What happened as a result of your investment of time, energy, and resources into an event.
  7. Assimilation. We typically push people through our one-hour new members class and then tell them to call us if they need us. How can we be sure no one falls through the cracks? How do our members behave differently than our attendees?
  8. Growth. Where is growth taking place? What age groups? What ministries? Why? This is important for future resource investment planning.
  9. Attrition. Why are people leaving your church? Speculation isn’t a good idea. We need to be asking and recording what we learn. While this might uncover painful experiences, it can lead to some very critical changes we might not have ever considered before.

Retention is a numbers game—and one you don’t want to lose. It isn’t about keeping people from leaving by external means or manipulation. It’s better than that. Retention is about engaging people in community to create meaningful relationships and to ensure people stick.

For a detailed look at how to measure and improve each of these numbers in your church, check out our eBook, “The Numbers Game: 9 Measurements that Will Increase Your Church’s Retention Factor.”

How many of these numbers does your church measure as a way to monitor and improve your retention strategy and grow your church in a healthy way?

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Adam B. Embry — 12/09/14 3:29 pm

Helpful metrics! Would you happen to know what the average number of website visits and average time spent on a church website would define a healthy church?

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.