While we fully acknowledge the subjective nature of ministry, it is still vitally important to have hard numbers to also assess the output of your church’s hard work. It is not about mere numbers, but the numbers do tell a story about your church you need to listen to. This can include things like your donation receipts (how much money is coming in to support the ministry programs and projects you have planned), spending reports (how much money is going out to the various ministry programs and projects), attendance records (how many people are coming to a particular event), and so on.
There are three reasons why it is important to keep track and measure things like these.
1. Measuring Supports Decision-Making
Measures help you make wise stewardship decisions. As we just said, no church has unlimited resources. Decisions are made on a daily basis within your church, including how to allocate resources (people, materials, equipment, facilities), whether to establish or dissolve ministry programs using those resources, or changing the structure and processes of your church.
Measuring the results of the various activities of your church provides information for making sound stewardship decisions. Decisions should be supported by tangible information about your church, not just anecdotes, emotional appeals, or hearsay. While you do not make decisions using just an impersonal formula with data as the only input, having objective information about the situation is essential for effective decision-making.
2. Measuring Brings Accountability
Measures keep you and your leadership team accountable. You and your church staff are accountable to various stakeholders within and outside of it, including the governing board (elders and/or deacons), donors and financial supporters, beneficiaries/participants in your ministry programs, vendors and suppliers, regulatory agencies at the local and state level, and the employees and volunteers themselves. Stakeholders like these hold expectations of certain levels of quality, timeliness, accuracy, and completeness from your church.
Who, for example, wants to donate money to a church known for mishandling its finances? Or who wants to work for a church just spinning its wheels but not really accomplishing anything significant or eternal?
3. Measuring Tracks Achievement of the Mission
Measures help to track mission-critical achievements. Goals are established and ministry programs are in place. Resources have been allocated and people are doing the work of the ministry. But is the work being done making a real impact? Is the program effective in contributing to the mission fulfillment of your church? Is your church efficiently putting its resources to work as it fulfills its mission?
Measuring the results of your ministry work to track the achievement of established goals provides feedback, letting you know if goals have been achieved or if you are at least headed in the right direction. If your church is on track, then that is something to both affirm and celebrate. But if you see early signs that things are not working as planned, then at least some midcourse correction can take place before you are too far off course.
This post is adapted from Smart Church Finances: A Pastor’s Guide to Budgets, Spreadsheets, and Other Things You Didn’t Learn in Seminary by George M. Hillman Jr. and John Reece (Lexham Press, 2020).