“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12
I’ve long been a proponent of measuring results. I believe if you don’t measure the results of something, odds are you’re not going to be as successful as you would be if you kept stats on your ministry.
For all of my pastoral ministry I kept monthly stats on the following things:
- Number of adult baptisms
- Number of people in small groups
- Number of interns in small groups
- Number of new small groups
- Number of children and youth in worship and Sunday School
- Number of adults in worship
- Average worship attendance
- Income for the month
- Number of people in ministry
Each month I would compare these figures to the preceding month and the year before. If any one of them were lagging behind, I would have a conversation with the appropriate staff person. If the declining trend continued for three months, I would have a conversation with them about the seriousness of the situation and ask what resources or training the person needed in order to keep their job.
Now, I know some of you are thinking that is a bit hard-nosed. Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t. If you don’t measure the results of what you’re doing, how do you know what kind of a steward you are with the gifts God has given you? You can’t. If you don’t measure the results of what you’re doing, how do you know if you are succeeding or failing?” You don’t. If you don’t measure something, it isn’t important to your ministry.
One of the most vexing things I have dealt with over the years is unwillingness on the part of most pastors to being held accountable. I’m not referring to morals or character, but to keeping stats on their ministry. So, are most pastors averse to accountability when it comes to numbers? Yes.
Think a church’s numbers don’t matter? Then how do you explain the constant use of numbers in Acts? The author of Acts chronicles the growth of the early church with numbers. Acts 1 says the church went from 120 to 3120 overnight. Acts 2:47 tells us “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 4:4 says so many heard and responded to the news that 5,000 were added, not counting women and children. It’s estimated that in the first year after Christ’s death 120,000 were added to the Church. Anyone who questions the importance of numbers needs to read Acts, especially chapters 1 and 2.
So why is it so difficult to get pastors to measure their ministry with hard numbers? One answer could be that we don’t like to be held accountable. Another could be that we don’t want our results to be known. Another could be that we aren’t proud of our results. Still another could be that we feel its okay to say it’s impossible to measure spirituality. All of these are just excuses to avoid taking stock of our ministry.
One final answer could be that we just don’t see the benefit in keeping score. But if you fall into this last category, let me encourage you to keep score. It could just change the course of your ministry.
Question: How do you measure your church’s numbers? If you don’t track your numbers, how can you get started? Share your metrics and methods in the Comments section below.
(From a layperson who has been part of a holistic discipleship culture for decades–unfortunately in a para-church setting). I just noticed that you have zero comments for this article as well as two others: Creating an Equipping Culture, May, 2016 and A New Scorecard for Churches in Any Age, Feb., 2016. I found the articles energizing and essential if we are to have any hope of advancing the gospel and furthering God’s kingdom. It seems I am in the minority.
I think you have answered your own question in this blog. Most pastors don’t want to be held accountable. But I think we need to go a few steps further. In fairness, most church leadership boards wouldn’t want to be held accountable either. I assume the excuses you listed were ones you’ve heard and/or seen. I am sure we could easily add several more.
However, most church lay leaders see themselves as some kind of advisory board whose responsibility is just to show up monthly to offer their personal opinion and make decisions on how their church should function. They may also lead a committee, but that’s about it.
I won’t say that the North American mainline churches are in essence preaching and living a different gospel, but at a minimum it has certainly become distorted and truncated with too many assumptions being made. And it doesn’t help that most of our pastors and lay leaders have never been discipled, nor understand the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives. In combination, all these pose some serious challenges too, don’t you think?
Back to the point of your article, certainly there is a lack of accountability all across our mainline church culture. Although some individual pastors (who are entrepreneurial or have a spiritual gift of leadership/administration) would automatically insist on this for themselves and their leadership, the vast majority do not. Instead, they are content to just pastor their flock, often in a kind of chaplain role. This has come up and you have addressed it elsewhere. Some pastors are worn out and have defaulted to this paradigm. Unfortunately, I think others signed up for it. They wouldn’t know what to do if you took away their pastor/chaplain role. Your blogs most likely threaten them.
Speaking as an elder who embraces your accountability theme and lives by it, I can tell you that it is very hard to keep fighting for this month after month with a leadership culture that is definitely adverse to measuring much of anything beyond budget and worship attendance.
So, my suggestion is while pastors need more accountability, I think your challenge more properly falls to the entire leadership team of each congregation. Unfortunately many lay leaders just don’t have a clue. Perhaps if more did, pastors would more easily be able to embrace accountability as part of a team effort.