Tracking the Front/Back Door, Leadership, Engagement & Culture
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Here’s a fact you probably don’t know about me: My love of numbers goes way, way, way back.
In college, they wanted me to take all these science courses, and there was this little considered option of taking advanced math instead. Guess what I picked? I’ve probably taken more advanced math courses than anybody who reads this blog or listens to the podcast.
But my personal love of numbers aside, I will tell you that I think numbers are pretty important for churches to be monitoring.
We always talk about how assessing church health is really about a mix of both numbers and stories, and that’s true. We need the stories to confirm what the numbers are telling us. The challenge with stories, though, is that we can never know everybody’s story at a specific moment in time.
If you’re trying to discern whether or not a church is healthy, the numbers give you something consistent to review. It’s ultimately about being a good steward of the resources God has given us. It helps us know if all of our activity is producing.
It’s hard to make decisions about ministry strategy. But it’s even harder to make decisions about prioritizing time and resources if you don’t have the baseline perspective of where you’re starting from. Many churches try to make changes and have no way to measure if those hard-fought changes are really having an impact either—in a positive or a negative way.
If you haven’t been monitoring metrics closely in your church, I think this episode will convince you it’s time to start.
In this episode, Amy and I discussed:
- Why your church should monitor metrics, and the 7 metrics we think every church should be tracking (at the very least)
- How often your leadership team should be updating and reviewing the numbers together
- What my first Audi taught me about ignoring warning signs
- How to look at several metrics in combination to get a clearer perspective (since no single metric tells the whole story)
- “Culture-shaping behaviors,” why they’re better than “core values,” and how to establish and evaluate them on your team
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Sean: 00:02 Welcome to the the Unstuck Church podcast where each week our team’s having a conversation about getting churches unstuck. How do you know if your church is really healthy? What are the indicators that tell us we’re on track or that warn us about the danger ahead. Today on the podcast, Tony and Amy explore how to monitor the health and growth of your church. As you listen today, I want to encourage you to use the show notes and download our leader conversation guide as you work through this content. You can find both of those at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 87. And don’t forget to subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get the links to all the resources that we mentioned. You’ll get our leader conversation guide and you’ll get bonus resources all conveniently delivered to your inbox. Maximize your time and go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. And now here’s this week’s conversation with Tony and Amy.
Amy: 00:54 Well Tony, today’s conversation is about monitoring the health and growth of a church. Something we talk about almost every week and specifically monitoring through numbers. And as we all know, you’re a numbers guy and you’ve been passionate about churches measuring things for a long time. Why is that?
Tony: 01:12 Yeah. Hey, I’ve never explained, I mean expressed how into numbers I am Amy. When I went to college, they wanted me to take all these science courses and instead of taking all those science courses, there was an option to take advanced math. I’ve probably taken more advanced math courses than anybody listening into this podcast today, but my love of numbers goes way, way, way, way back. But I will tell you, in the church, I think our numbers are pretty important. Now I’ll say, we always talk about it’s a mix of both numbers and stories that we need the stories to confirm what the numbers are telling us. The challenge with stories though is we can never know everybody’s story at whatever moment in time. You’re trying to discern whether or not the church is healthy. And so we need the numbers to confirm the stories we’re hearing as well. And I really believe this assessment of numbers, it’s about being a good steward of the resources that God has given us. Definitely it’s God that builds the church, but it’s our job to monitor the results so that we know whether or not our prayer, the time that we’re investing, the resources that we’re investing, whether it’s actually working or not. And that helps us to know whether or not we’re winning as a church.
Amy: 02:37 So if I’m a leader at my church and I’m like, we seem to be doing okay and we haven’t been monitoring metrics closely, why would I want to start now?
Tony: 02:47 Well, that’s a good question. Well, one perspective that comes to mind is it’s actually about perspective. We should help develop that shared perspective on our team and rather than one person discerning whether or not we’re winning as a church, it’s a good idea that everybody has a clear picture of what the scoreboard looks like, so that we know clearly whether or not we’re winning and whether or not we’re pulling in the same direction as a team. Another reason to do this is that it helps provide a foundation for future planning. I’d, in fact, I just had this conversation with the church recently. They’re trying to figure out where they need to be focusing their time and their energy and how they need to prepare for the next steps of growth and health that’s happening in their church. But they didn’t have a clear picture of how people were engaging and volunteer engagement and so on.
Tony: 03:41 I just said, you know, it’s hard to make decisions about ministry strategy. It’s hard to make decisions about prioritizing time and resources if you don’t have the baseline of where, where you’re starting from. Otherwise you could start making changes and you would have no idea whether those changes were really having an impact either in a positive or a negative way. Additionally, monitoring metrics, can provide early warning signs that something needs attention. And Amy, you’ve probably heard me share this story. I’m kind of a car buff, but not really. But I really appreciate quality cars. Now, my challenge is I’ve never been able to own a new quality car, so I’m always shopping for rather old quality cars. In fact, I just recently purchased another one that’s eight or nine years old. I love it. But my favorite car that I’ve ever owned was an Audi.
Tony: 04:43 It, I mean it was beautiful, blue exterior, tan interior, all of the luxuries that you would want on a car. When I purchased it, it was probably more than 10 years old, but I absolutely loved it. The only challenge with that Audi is constantly the check engine light would be coming on and I think newer versions of the Audis, they’ve taken care of this, but the one I owned, it was just a constant battle and the check engine light would come on, I’d take it to my mechanic friend, he would work his magic and then turn the light off and then I would get it back and this went on and on for a number of years really. Check engine light, take it to my mechanic, he fixes it, turns off the light and then I drive it off and everything’s good for a time.
Tony: 05:33 Well the check engine light came on again and I was just getting tired of having to deal with this and so I went into my garage. Now again, I’m not very mechanical Amy, so this is probably not going to surprise you, but I went into the garage, I found a piece of black electrical tape, cut it and just covered the check engine light, assuming that would kind of take care of the issue. Yeah, and it did. It did for several days and then the car stopped running and so we had to tow my Audi to the my mechanic friend, my mechanic friend took a look at it and he said, I’m sorry Mr. Morgan but this time in order to turn off that check engine light, you’re going to have to give me several thousand dollars to fix the issue. And it’s, it was just a good reminder for me that in the church, there are certain warning signs that we can be looking at and they’re in the form of vital signs that we should be considering as a church. Different ways of measuring, monitoring the health of the church, and we have to when those warning lights go off, we have to begin to make some changes at that point we just can’t cover those warning signs with black tape and our ministry and hope that the issue is going to go away.
Amy: 06:58 Right. Well, at Unstuck we work with churches to help them understand what to measure. And so for today’s listeners, for churches that maybe don’t have this muscle built yet, what are some of the key metrics, Tony, that you’d pull out and encourage churches to begin to monitor that would give them a picture of their overall health?
Tony: 07:17 Yeah. Well the first thing I want to highlight here is there’s really not one metric, one data point that you can look at to tell the whole story of health and your ministry. In other words, you just can’t measure the amount of attendance and giving in your churches and assume that your church is healthy. So here’s where I would recommend you start. Here’s some key measures that you really need to figure out. How are we going to track these and how are we going to monitor them? One good example, and we talked about this on our last podcast, first time guests, it’s impossible to know whether or not you have a healthy front door unless somehow you’re tracking the first time guests at your church. Baptisms and salvations. I mean, that really is our primary mission as a church make disciples of Jesus.
Tony: 08:09 And so somehow tracking is that life change actually happening in our church? And then, I don’t want to understate it. Attendance, I think is a critical measure of health for the church. I mean, it really is that front door in many instances of the first steps that people are taking in their faith journey. And it’s the place where we get to corporately worship together. We get to hear solid biblical teaching. And it’s important that we’re tracking the attendance in our weekend services and even in other key environments within our church. This, this really helps us measure the front door of the church. But we also need to monitor the back door as well. And here’s where I would encourage churches to think about engagement, how are people engaging and taking steps on that discipleship path that we talked about a couple episodes ago. You know, it’s like, are people connecting and serving are people connecting in groups? Are they engaging and using their gifts outside the walls of the church. Somehow we have to monitor whether or not people are connecting and engaging in the ministry themselves as well. And so, we have to look for those opportunities, both front door indicators and back toward indicators to make sure the church is thriving and healthy.
Amy: 09:30 No, that’s good. So if leaders are gathering this data, Tony, how often do you recommend that they actually review those metrics and also who should be a part of that process?
Tony: 09:40 Yeah, I’m not going to recommend here anything that we’re not also doing as a team at The Unstuck Group. And once a month, our leadership team, we have a dashboard of our key vital signs for our ministry as well. And together we’re reviewing those vital signs for us. I mean it’s, it’s very similar. How many churches are we serving? What’s our ongoing engagement with churches? How many churches do we have considering working with The Unstuck Group? And it includes our financial indicators as well. And so once a month I think is the ideal here, Amy, that leadership teams and the churches we’re serving. And if you’re listening to, I would encourage you to do this as well. That you understand what are those key vital signs, build them into a dashboard that you can review with your leadership team once a month to make sure that you are actually seeing signs of health across the life of your church.
Tony: 10:39 And then if there are any warning signs that are going off, make sure that you’re then taking specific next steps to address those. Now this vital sign dashboard, I think it’s helpful for the leadership team at your church to do this. I think there are going to be aspects of this dashboard you’re going to want to share with the broader staff team. Certainly with your lay leaders in your church, if you have a board of elders or whatever your board structure looks like, that’s, that’s part of how they can provide some accountability and encouragement that the church is staying focused on the mission and the vision that God’s called the church to. But this data that you’re collecting really isn’t intended for the broader congregation. This is, this is the kind of an insider, a dashboard metrics or things that we need to be looking at internally as well as the leadership of the church. But it’s not something you’re going to want to broadcast publicly to the entire congregation.
Amy: 11:41 All right. Anything else that you’d encourage churches to monitor to get a sense of their overall health?
Tony: 11:47 Yeah actually, Amy, I want to flip this question because it actually bleeds into a lot of work that we do with team health as well. And it begins with establishing, we call them culture shaping behaviors and teams. And it’s part of what we’re trying to do here is identify those key behaviors that staff teams are looking for that define not only the health of the team, but over time then shaped the culture of the team, which we have found as the team lives that out, that shapes the culture of the entire congregation as well. Can you elaborate a little bit about that and why it’s so important for the church to be monitoring that over time as well?
Amy: 12:31 Right. Well, you can’t be a healthy church with an unhealthy team. And so by identifying and naming what those core behaviors or expectations are of the people on your team, it just brings better unity and clear expectations throughout the organization. And this is what defines our culture here at our church.
Tony: 12:53 And so what we do is on this, on a dashboard for the churches that we’re working with, we offer these culture shaping behaviors, encouraging them to identify these behaviors for their team and then kind of use our red, yellow, green, exercise to identify whether or not there’s health. In other words, the team reviews together each behavior and says this is healthy. If so, we color it green. Are we doing some things right? But there are some things we need to work on. Well then we’ll color that yellow. Is this a place where we’re just not really healthy as a team right now? Then we’ll color that red. But it’s a way of making sure the culture too is being protected, that we’re creating a healthy culture on our team and it helps to create a visual, just like the numbers we talked about earlier, to make sure that we’re experiencing health within our church as well.
Amy: 13:47 By the way, also defining those, you know, I think we all know we need to hire people who have the competence for the position that they have, the chemistry that fits with the team. And the character to have the role. But when you define this culture piece, it also helps you further clarify who’s going to fit on your team and who isn’t going to fit. But okay, Tony, any final thoughts on this whole topic of monitoring health and growth?
Tony: 14:11 Yeah, Amy, this is one of the key topics, health and growth that we cover in much more in depth way in our Leading an Unstuck Church online course. In fact, one of the perks of navigating the course is that you get access to our vital signs tool where you can enter a couple dozen key metrics from your church and then automatically a report is generated to give you some sense of your overall health as a church in a number of key areas. And so this will be a good tool for you to begin to look at your metrics and compare where your churches to hundreds of other churches that we’ve worked with in the past. Our vital signs tool will help you get on the fast track for how you can be measuring health and growth in your church and give you a sense of what movement is needed for your church to be healthy as well, and you can learn more and sign up for the course by going to theunstuckgroup.com and clicking online course.
Sean: 15:11 Well, thanks for joining us for today’s conversation. Don’t forget, this is your last chance to get our additional resource bundle completely free when you sign up for the Leading an Unstuck Church online course. Join us today at theunstuckgroup.com/course. If you’re finding this weekly podcast helpful, please consider leaving us a review on your favorite podcasting platform that helps us get this content in the hands of more leaders. And as always, if you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping churches get unstuck, visit us at theunstuckgroup.com. Have a great week everyone.