Metrics: Balancing Stats and Stories

Line ChartChurch metrics. That’s not a very pretty phrase. In fact, for many, it seems cold. If church becomes a numbers game, then people become “just a number,” and when people are just a number, we’ve failed to emulate the ministry of Jesus. But if we fail to count anybody, we allow people to slip through the cracks and therefore fail to emulate the ministry of Jesus.

So how do you count people in a way that makes each person count? You balance the stats and the stories. In other words, who was there on Sunday is even more important than how many were there. I’m leading a breakout session during Exponential (it will be in their podcast some time soon) on “The Metrics of the Craveable Church.” I didn’t pick the title, or the topic for that matter. But what I’m emphasizing is that how many people showed up is not nearly as important as how many people moved. How many people gave their lives to Jesus, submitted to baptism, joined a small group, and got involved in a ministry for the first time?

We’re planting a church and when I travel, people often ask me how it’s going. Usually they’re asking “how many are you running?” I usually know the answer because we’ve counted people, since people count. But I try not to give them numbers. Instead, I try to tell a story. A young man stepped up to give his life to Jesus and he’s different now. A couple was spiritually disconnected and they’re worshipping side-by-side now. An alcoholic feels accepted without judgment.

The statistics we take help us measure what we’re doing right and wrong, whether we’re moving people forward spiritually, and whether we’re effective. But it is the stories that tell us whether we’re actually doing the right things, whether we are speaking the truth in love, and whether we are really there for people.

I like stats, spreadsheets, and line charts, but they don’t melt my heart. Stories do. What’s yours?

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About the Author

I'm Brandon. I'm the Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church in Northwest Arkansas, which my wife, Angie, and I planted in January of 2012. I previously served as a Pastor at Saddleback Church and still manage Pastor Rick Warren's online, global ministry to pastors, Pastors.com. I also lead a blog about blogging, a blog about social media, and a blog about men's issues. And I've written a book - Rewired, which challenges the church to adopt social media to spread the good news about Jesus. I sometimes take on church website design projects and I coach pastors and leaders as well. I'd love to hear from you!
1 Response
  1. I’ve been trying to think through these kinds of things for awhile now.  I love keeping stats and measuring growth, but “how many” doesn’t tell the full story.  I love your idea about measuring movement.  It’s difficult to measure spiritual growth, but I think that’s a step in the right direction.

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