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Measure twice, cut once

By Ken Behr

I was never a very good carpenter. I didn’t have enough practice to be able to successfully cut a piece of wood to size. I was pretty good at following a pattern or a template, but typically the piece of wood was either too short or too long. Too-long slows you down, too-short wastes wood.

My father always had good advice for me. The advice was in carpentry, “Measure twice, cut once

In the church, we need to follow the same advice. Actually, we need to just measure more. Developing some simple metrics for a church and watching some key indicators can tell you a lot. Church metrics are like business metrics. They provide key data for leaders for analysis and to monitor the organizations performance. All too often, church leaders are called to try to make a decision without some information that would really help them make better judgment calls.

What kinds of metrics are needed?  Often churches keep track of attendance, giving, baptisms and perhaps even guests.  If the church has a number of employees, some performance metrics are often used, perhaps an annual performance appraisal.

Metrics are never to be considered in the absolute, but always with regard to trends. For example, one weekend’s attendance doesn’t tell us anything, however, knowing that weekend attendance has been growing by 10 percent the past few years and has recently flattened out gives us much more information.

One of the questions I get from our church leaders is about the accuracy of the metrics. They are usually surprised when I tell them that absolute accuracy is not as important as consistency and timeliness. The key is constantly monitoring trends.

Attendance for example can vary from church to church. Some churches count just adults in a worship service, others count adults and children. I recommend that churches count everyone including volunteers, those parking cars and everyone on the stage. All of these methods can be fine metrics. As long as the count is being made the same way each week (and each service), church leadership has a tool to use that allows them to have information quicker, make adjustments when necessary and celebrate as appropriate.

Ken Behr is an executive pastor at Christ Fellowship, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. [www.gochristfellowship.com]

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