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It’s about measuring metrics – not numbers

By Jeremy Steele

If you have ever filled out a quarterly church report, you may get a little twinge in your stomach when documenting attendance, donations and so on. "It's not about the numbers," you may think. How do you measure life change or spiritual transformation by how many people showed up? And there's probably not much room in the report to discuss the nuances of a particularly productive counseling session or how a new study is transforming one of your small groups.

You can't evaluate ministry success solely on whether the numbers are getting bigger. However, that does not mean all numbers are bad. The use of metrics (using numbers to measure what numbers are good at measuring) can help measure cost and return on investment. Metrics can indicate when to stop a ministry or program so you can prune the bottom 20% and focus on more efficient outreach. Metrics also can help you determine when to redeem or replace volunteers.

Two good, free tools can help you do this.

The General Council on Finance and Administration offers Vital Signs, free to United Methodist churches. This email-based system can help you track worship attendance, small-group participation, mission giving, weekly contributions and volunteers engaged in mission.

After signing up for the service, you get a weekly email with a link to enter your data into the Vital Signs system. After doing that, you can look at historical data (how you are doing year by year) and gauge your progress in relationship to the overall progress of your conference.

This service focuses on giving you metrics that measure the effectiveness of your church at large; however, its focus on simplicity omits the detail required to evaluate individual groups, projects or services.

That is where Church Metrics comes in. Church Metrics allows you to track attendance and giving at multiple services on multiple campuses and any number of special events and other activities. While most churches do not have multiple campuses, many have children and youth ministries that could be set up as "campuses" so you could track their services independent of the church's "main campus."

What stands out when you first log into Church Metrics is the beautiful, intuitive design. It is truly a pleasure to use and makes every step simple and quick.

In addition to tracking attendance and giving, churches can have multiple users who manage data with different login credentials and permissions. The best part about Church Metrics is that the church can customize almost everything. This means that although Church Metrics does not ship with the same categories as Vital Signs, it would be simple to change those settings.

A more robust paid option is Church management software. ChMS systems streamline business processes, provide financial protection and increase giving opportunities. They also allow you to track relationships, talents, interests, attendance, gifts, fundraising campaigns, volunteers and other progress metrics.

Regardless of whether you choose Vital Signs, Church Metrics or a ChMS system, the ability to see yearly comparison charts and weekly progress is incredibly helpful. It can allow your church to make informed decisions about how you are reaching your community with the grace and love of Jesus.