Four Different Ways to Measure Success: Metrics for a New Era of Church

church metrics and measuring

This post on church metrics is written by Jeff Lockyer, the Lead Pastor of Southridge Community Church, a multi-site, missional church in the Niagara Region of Ontario Canada.  A former national team long-distance runner, Jeff also chairs the Board of the Global Leadership Network Canada, and is the founder of Leaders’ Village (@leadersvillage).  He has recently released his first book, Finding Our Way: Reclaiming the First-Century Church in the Twenty First Century.

By Jeff Lockyer:

The fall is always significant for leaders in local churches because it represents the launch season of your annual rhythm. This year, as you inch our way out of the pandemic, the fall kick-off season has ministry leaders excited, anxious, and bit puzzled as churches seek to rebuild momentum in their communities.

The rush back has been underwhelming for many leaders.

Momentum is measured by numbers—often referred to as the “metrics” or “Key Performance Indicators” (KPI’s). As you re-launch ministries in a season that, for many, feels like we’re re-planting our churches, those metrics will invariably get even closer attention than usual.

The question is: as local church leaders, what are you measuring? And, what do the things you measure say about what it is you’re actually building? How do you measure “success” in the Body of Christ?

As local church leaders, what are you measuring? And, what do the things you measure say about what it is you’re actually building? How do you measure “success” in the Body of Christ? @jefflockyer Click To Tweet

Traditionally, pastors have defaulted to what’s known as the “ABC’s” of church: Attendance, Buildings, and Cash. Even through the pandemic—with the twist of pivoting online—many of the church leaders I’ve spoken with have focused their attention most closely on these aspects of church life.

But when you think about the purpose of the Church—to incarnate the love of Jesus Christ in the world—is that what matters most? Is simply drawing a crowd, filling buildings, or paying the bills the full extent of what Jesus lived, died, and rose again to empower? Is this what Jesus really meant when He said, “I will build my church”?

Old Metrics, Meet New Metrics

In our local church, these questions have ravaged us. In the early years of my church leadership, we felt like we had the ABC’s rolling: growing 35-40% year-over-year-over year, repeatedly doubling our church population, adding multiple services and facility expansions, and seeing booming budget surpluses. It was a great time to be talking to my pastor buddies!

But then, unexpectedly, we were confronted with an agonizing question: “If your church suddenly disappeared, would anyone in your surrounding society really notice?” All of a sudden a new number appeared: the number zero. Because, at that time, that’s about how many people in our surrounding community would have noticed if we disappeared—in spite of rocking out the ABC’s of church.

So, instead of further expanding our existing facility, that question drove us to relocate our church closer to the downtown core of our city so we could be in greater proximity to the people our society typically ignored. A couple years after moving, we opened what is now the largest 24-7, 365-day/year homeless shelter in our region, right in our church building.

Fast-forward a few more years, when we were becoming multi-site, and we started launching new locations around a “shelter-equivalent” initiative that now defines each of our church locations. Referred to as our “Anchor Causes”, these primary programs of compassion and justice now define what each of our church locations is ultimately about.

Over the decades, as we’ve continued to grow in our capacity to reveal Jesus to our world, we’ve awakened to some new KPI’s—these days, we focus on some different numbers to measure our effectiveness, other than the traditional ABC’s of church or online metrics. The new metrics help us measure impact in ways that other metrics simply don’t capture.

For us, some of the most critical numbers we now monitor are:

1. Our “budget pie”: rather than fixating on the amount of money coming in, we now focus on the percentage of funds we invest into our surrounding society in the form of compassion and justice activity. Before moving our church, there were literally zero dollars stewarded to share Christ’s love in practical ways. But, this past year, over 70% of the money we’re spending is being invested into fostering compassion and justice in our communities (both locally and globally). Since your expenses reveal what you value, this metric matters very much to us because it gives us an indication of how much we value the people Jesus most values.

Rather than fixating on the amount of money coming in, we now focus on the percentage of funds we invest into our surrounding society in the form of compassion and justice activity. @jefflockyer Click To Tweet

2. “Engagement rates”: possibly even more critical than money is people’s time, so we also seek to measure how many of our weekend service attenders are actively participating in the Way of Jesus—as opposed to simply living out a “church-goer” kind of faith. To do that, we have more critical KPI’s than our attendance rates. The most important of these is what we call our “Engagement rate”, which tracks the percentage of our attenders involved in one of our locations’ Anchor Causes. We’re working to get our engagement rates over 100%, where more people would access the “front door” of our church through the Anchor Cause before even attending a weekend service!

3. “Integration rates”: to us, this statistic is next-level, because when we engage people in our Anchor Causes, we’re seeking to foster what we call a “friendship that makes the difference” through fostering reciprocal relationships with the marginalized people we’re serving. As a church, then, we’re not just looking to one-directionally serve people in need, but to create mutuality as we explore, experience, and express Christ’s love together. So—kind of the inverse metric to engagement rates—we want to know how many people that we’ve served in our Anchor Causes (like our friends who’ve experienced homelessness) have been welcomed, included, and integrated into our other core programs (i.e.: our weekend services and Life Groups).

4. Community feedback: you’ll never really know if your surrounding society would notice if you disappeared unless you ask them. This can happen conversationally, which we often do with civic officials and friends outside of our community, to get their candid opinion on our church’s effectiveness. But, at times, it can also happen statistically, through outside surveys and feedback generators. Would people outside your church “strongly agree” that you add positive value to your surrounding society, or would they “strongly disagree”? By simply asking that question—through a measured survey—you can clearly know the answer!

You’ll never really know if your surrounding society would notice if you disappeared unless you ask them. @jefflockyer Click To Tweet

As you consider your fall launch season—and rebuilding momentum as a local church— what is it that you and your leadership are most measuring? What KPI’s do you most care about? And: what do your most critical metrics say about what your church and leadership values most?

If we’re going to be people—and communities—who live out the primacy of Jesus’ Law of Love, we’ve got to figure out how to measure it. But, to be clear: measuring the degree to which we exude Christ’s love can’t be captured through the traditional ABC’s of church.

Measuring the degree to which we exude Christ’s love can’t be captured through the traditional ABC’s of church. @jefflockyer Click To Tweet

As we reopen coming out of this pandemic, is it time for you and your ministry to re-evaluate how you measure success? I dare say, you won’t be able to really build momentum—Jesus-expressing, Kingdom-expanding momentum—without it!

What about you? How is your church measuring success?

I’d love to hear how your church is navigating metrics as you re-open. Leave a comment below and share!

Four Different Ways to Measure Success: Metrics for a New Era of Church

15 Comments

  1. Ray on October 11, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    You don’t need a church building or buildings with all of the associated expenses, including staff, to share God’s Word with others. Share for FREE by giving this to others.

    https://www.openbible.info/topics

    And by being altruistic in Christ!

    1 Timothy 6:10

  2. Wendell C Smith on October 11, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Make your articles PDF free downloadable

  3. Jon on October 11, 2021 at 11:03 am

    I really like these metrics. Our church is in the inner-city of Austin, Texas which is primarily under-resourced. We have thousands of immigrants, generational poor, and chronic homeless and street population. Our church uses most of these metrics. I really like the Integration metric. Our team knows this info but have it a part of our official metric is helpful. Also, I 100% agree with “Community Feedback”. I would caution to clearly define which community. Our church has three primary “Communities” as we are in the heart of gentrification. Our main community we serve is multiple government housing apartment communities which are very different demographic than the houses in the zip code. One is under-resourced and lived there for generations. The other is high dollar condos and new people from different states (they matter too, but our church focuses more on the apartment communities). The third “Community” is the business community. Our church is on a historic corner surrounded by small businesses. We helped start and participate in a merchant’s association to work with the city and business owners to improve the community and work together. Those three are the primary community we would measure as a metric.

  4. Josh Horn on October 11, 2021 at 9:13 am

    “over 70% of the money we’re spending is being invested into fostering compassion and justice in our communities (both locally and globally)”

    Would you be willing (or have you already) to flesh out this 70%?

    What do you qualify as invested in compassion and justice? How much of the regular programming, ministry work, etc, in your buildings or online counts and how much is donated to other ministries locally and how much is active ministry outside your walls/platforms but led by your staff/volunteers?

  5. Steve on October 11, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Our measure is can we even establish a budget? Much less how we use it.

  6. Sunny on October 11, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Our church also uses these metrics:
    1. First- time commitments to Christ (those beginning a faith journey)
    2. Number of Baptisms (those taking intentional next steps in faith)
    3. Number of people involved in serving in some capacity (those who have taken ownership of their faith community and choose to invest in it)

    • dandan on October 11, 2021 at 10:21 am

      of course this commentary was texted by a conglomerate corporate maybe a franchise but absolute religion 501c3..
      because the beginning of a person’s life with God started before the foundation of the Earth… God chooses mankind chooses nothing…
      baptism does not mean you’re saved… especially in these churches today where the preachers care more about making money and having members contributing money money than they do about souls and teachings and Bible and baptism….. the fourth commandment remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy…..
      the Sabbath day is Friday evening till Saturday evening…..
      once a person comes to the realization by himself with no help from a 501c3 business they will act they will walk the path they will get baptized but they don’t need a man they don’t need a business to do it…… especially a business that has a doctrine which is abhorrent to the Jesus Christ teachings…..

    • dandan on October 11, 2021 at 10:50 am

      501c3 means that the preachers work for the Deacons and the deacons work for the corporation…. you may vote for the preacher you want but the money goes to the deacons and the church… Cleveland Baptist Church on tiedeman road in Cleveland built a school as a safe haven for the preachers retirement…. to raise an objection or a question to the trinity will have three big thugs challenge you to go outside… looks like a bar room brawl….

      it’s about the money they don’t take care of people in need impoverished who need help who need a couple boards placed in their ports so they have a warm safe place for their rocking chair… biggest church in this area has no food bank….
      the biggest church in my area when you become a member you show your 1040 form to make sure they get a 10th…..
      the government takes care of the schools and the old people infirmed welfare education this is the job of the church… the church is closed 98% of the time and yet they want their 10th….. the government does much more than the church even though allows each job and gets 50% of my cash…… people are leaving the church because 501c3 means greedy business…… and guys like me warn them and tell the truth….. this is why only two of my postings out of eight have made it through the censorship…. maybe not even this one…. you’ll never know it….

    • Jon on October 11, 2021 at 2:01 pm

      The budget is how you will use it. Try creating one based off of percentages. Percentages stay the same as the numbers grow. It’s more about positioning the heart of the ministry to steward what comes in. He’ll always give seed to the sower especially when the place of sowing aligns with His heart.

  7. dandan on October 11, 2021 at 7:42 am

    if you want to succeed at a 501c3 government sponsored religion… offer food for free but put out a contribution jar and tell everybody $5 minimum….. get them to sing get them to dance get a very loud band to play droning droning music…. make the people have a great time and do not burden them by calling them centers and calling them this and calling them that…… tell them they are wonderful tell them it’s great never never never pull out a Bible only read books about the Bible who are very positive Joyce Meyer style Joel Osteen style….. forget about Jesus Christ he is dead anyway….. this is the way to bring in millions and millions of dollars….. even $1 across a television generates 1 million people 1 million dollars…… make them feel good they will think it is a cover charge to being entertained….. every time you meet them on individual basis tell them how nice of a haircut they have what a great tie where’d you get them beautiful shoes madam….. do not let them speak in Bible study…. questions merely cause confusion put on a basket for their donations just make it another little sermon don’t let them speak…… do not let anybody attend who is asking biblical questions such as Gideon or parable of the talents any of that throw them out right away…….

    • Scott on October 11, 2021 at 8:25 am

      What even …? *speechless*

    • Ron Munro on October 11, 2021 at 10:42 am

      What are you talking about, and how is this relevant to the original post?

    • dandan on October 11, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      the Lord knows your heart but lots of people lie to themselves especially going to religious functions not Christian functions

  8. Peggy Hisey on October 11, 2021 at 5:07 am

    This is so thought provoking! Most of us have pivoted what feels like a million times in the last 18 months. While we (my church) have looked at some new metrics, we still have some work to do.

    • Tina Matteson on October 12, 2021 at 6:23 am

      I agree, my church has a lot of work to do. Thank you for this article.

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