Day to day, it’s difficult to see my own kids growing. Unless I’m gone for a week and then come home, I just don’t notice the change. It’s difficult to see growth on an every day basis for those who are close to you. Thankfully, there are outward measurements that help us detect growth and the speed of the process.
For kids it may be that their shoes and clothes get too small, it may be by the way they begin to behave, or it might by the comments other people make, “I can’t believe she is getting so tall!” There are also mile marker factors such as grade in school, birthday, or new groups they are able to join. We know they are growing, but without markers, it’s difficult to pinpoint.
It’s the same for the church. It’s hard to know if the church is growing unless we look at some measurements.
I often hear, what gets measured will get focused on.
If our church has dropped off in attendance, but no one is measuring it or working on it, then it will become a slow decline that no one quite understands or notices until it’s to late.
What measurements can we use to make sure our church is growing and moving forward? Here are five to begin with:
I know people get antsy when numbers are involved, but don’t. Become comfortable with numbers, they represent lives of people. The leader shouldn’t live for big numbers, but the leader is responsible for pinpointing when the numbers are down. I recently heard someone say, give God credit with the numbers are high and take responsibility when numbers are lower. In all things we give thanks. We don’t hang our hat on attendance, but we don’t go laissez faire either. Someone has to pin point reality with clarity – is your church growing in worship attendance or not? What needs to be done to reverse it? Don’t sugar coat this. It can be both a great indicator and a great motivator. As the pastor or church leader, this may be your biggest agenda item of each week – connecting with people and helping to grow the worship attendance.
Is giving strong and going up? Are people generous? Is there mission giving happening (either inside or outside of the budget)? This is an area where growth does not always happen naturally. People in churches often need to become more mature in giving and this requires teaching and modeling. Too often, church leaders shy away from money unless there is a need to talk about it. However, the worst time to talk about money is when there is a need. If you only save teaching on finances for the budget season, they will see through your teaching and sense the awkward hesitance about the church “always talking for money.” The best time to preach about money is when the church isn’t asking for any. You should talk about it two or three times per year and weave it into the culture of your church – we’re a giving church. It’s faith builing for a congregation and for an individual. True generosity not only grows our faith but the faith of those who experience. READ: The Best Time To Preach About Money and 12 Money Quotes For Church Leaders.
Lingering and Visiting
Do your people hang around after church to talk and visit? Do you find that people are lingering in the parking lot, connecting in conversation and community after meetings? Are there relationships that begin, grow and flourish? Church buildings often determine how people connect. If you have a large gathering space, there may be more opportunity for people to just hang around. If you have small hallways leading to one big room, it may be more difficult. People in our church hang around after worship for quite some time and it seems to be increasing. We’ve also noticed that the services held in the Family Life Center have more lingering because there is more space to stand around and talk. Kids run around, people connect, and there’s coffee and other goodies. This connection is a mark of growth. Figure out ways, even if your building doesn’t naturally allow for it, to invite people to linger around before or after worship. One Sunday, on a nice spring day, we set up some refreshments just outside the sanctuary doors and invited people to stick around. When the weather is nice, every church has plenty of space outdoors to linger and visit.
Do you hear ideas from people? Are volunteers seeking to grow their ministries? Are you seeing signs that people are invested in the church and ministry? Yesterday, I was pulling out of our church building and saw a guy who volunteers with the tech and video ministry pull in. We rolled our windows down and he asked if it was ok for him to work on some odds and ends in the worship tech area. Of course! A ministry area volunteer who takes off work on a Monday to come to the church and get details together – that’s investment! Another example of this might be when people have ideas. Encourage ideas, talk about them. Get people thinking about ways they can be a part of the church and serve in ministry to the region. I would rather have 100 ideas – even if only 10 worked – than no thoughts of growth or investment from others in the church.
Celebrations of Outward Ministry
When you see celebrations occur for outward ministry, there is life. Celebrate kids who come to Sunday school or children’s worship. Celebrate milestones of ministry and mission. Celebrate work being done in the community and neighborhood. Celebrate goals that are reached. Anytime outward ministry can be pinpointed and shared, it should be. It’s an indicator of life. It’s the mandate of the church, to go into all the world. Part of that mandate is your church – right where it is – being salt and light in a community that may never be able to be reached otherwise. To the degree you’re involved in taking the message out, will be the degree to which your church is focused outwardly. There’s nothing more disappointing than an inward focused church. The best way to lead around an inward focused church to start looking outward and celebrating anything you can that supports it.
The goal of every church is to grow. I understand life cycles for organizations and I’m totally comfortable with seasons in the church. But too often, some leaders admit too quickly that the church is gone. If you’re not seeing signs of growth, that is your first priority as a church leader – to get the ball rolling. Start at the top of this list and work your way down. Most everything else can be put on the back burner until you start seeing signs of growth!