The Crucial Church Metric You're (Probably) Not Measuring - But Should!
(NOTE: This post was excerpted from the ebook “5 Crucial Church Metrics You’re Not Measuring (But Should Be!)”)
Most statistics churches track relate to what’s going on inside. That’s understandable. Those are the numbers that are easiest to track. But Mark Clifton, the senior director of the North American Mission Board’s rePlanting team, suggests that one of the most important proofs for the health and vitality of any church is whether the community would miss the congregation if it were gone.
Making disciples who make disciples must lead to a transformed neighborhood around the church. While this kind of metric frees us from an over-reliance on numbers, it raises the bar significantly as far as discipleship. Instead of attendance, let’s think instead of decreased crime in the neighborhood, improved schools, and an increase in intact families. No, the neighborhood surrounding your church will never reach perfection this side of eternity, but I’ve seen firsthand that normative-sized rePlanted neighborhood churches can impact communities in amazing ways. Progress will be slow, but it will come. (Reclaiming Glory, pgs. 112-113, B&H Publishing, 2016)
Clifton saw this at Wornall Road Baptist Church, a church he revitalized in inner-city Kansas City, Missouri. The church had withered down to less than 20 in attendance before his arrival. As part of his strategy to “rePlant” the church, Clifton focused on serving the neighborhood around it. The church adopted the local high school, reached out to mothers in the neighborhood whose sons had been murdered, and invited local nonprofits to use its building. Though the church grew impressively (to about 150 in attendance at its later high), it never became a megachurch by any stretch of the definition, yet it made a significant impact upon the community.
So what are some metrics the leaders of this church considered when they asked themselves whether the neighborhood would miss them if the church disappeared?
- Crime rate: When your church engages and begins to disciple your neighborhood, you should see fewer people committing crimes.
- Graduation rate: Your local high school should graduate more of the neighborhood’s youth.
- Divorce rate: You should expect to see more families staying together.
Remember, these metrics will look different in every church—and in every community. Wornall Road found itself in the midst of a financially and relationally desperate urban neighborhood. Suburban churches that reside in more affluent situations would use different metrics.
Only your church can properly define the change you hope your congregation will be for your community and how you’ll become indispensable in the process. Neighborhood flourishing metrics are big-picture numbers you discover together with your leadership team—or ideally your whole church. Dream together. Ask yourselves how you’d hope the community would be different in five, 10, and 15 years as God does a new work.
Things to Consider:
- Unlike internal metrics, you have less control over these. Obviously, there are simply too many variables to completely attribute every increase or decrease to your church’s efforts.
- You should think long term with all metrics, but particularly for this set. You want to at least look at these numbers over a five-year span. The most telling stats will only be discernible a decade or even a generation from now.
- These stats will be more helpful the nearer to your church that you draw them from. Think in terms of a census block typically. Larger regional churches will need to expand their research.
- Neighborhood stats will likely be more difficult to track than internal numbers. You may have to do more intensive research to discover these numbers. But they are well worth the effort!
How to Improve This Metric:
- Tightly define the neighborhood that would flourish if your church flourishes.
- Do an audit of your church’s ministries and the budgets attached to them. Take a piece of paper and draw a line through the middle of it. On one side, write down all the ministries in your church that are designed to meet the needs of the congregation. On the other side, write down the ministries that are designed to meet the needs of the broader community. Your church needs to meet a balance of both. Be honest about what you’re doing to impact your surrounding neighborhood.
- Invest your people and your resources in your surrounding neighborhood. Invite nonprofits to use your building. Challenge groups in your church to adopt streets.
- Adopt a local school. Ask the principal what your church can do to support the school. Leave your agenda at the school doors. Don’t work off of your vision—work off the principal’s vision.
- Depending upon your neighborhood, partner with other churches that have a passion for serving the community.
To learn more about this and other oft-overlooked church metrics, click below to read the rest of the ebook!
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