Reboot Your Reporting

By Frank Logue, part of the Vestry Papers issue on ‘Reboot’ Your Vestry (January 2016)

Editor’s note: How do we measure success? Is it the number of people in our pews on an average Sunday? The number of ‘members in good standing?’ The percentage of our budget covered by our annual pledge drive? Retiring our debt?

Or, is it something else?

Reggie McNeal and Frank Logue introduced me to a different kind of church scorecard at the 2003 Church Leadership Conference at Kanuga Camp and Conference Center. They suggested moving beyond the questions in the annual parochial report and thinking about what the scorecard might look like if we also began to measure, or report, our progress as it relates to growing as followers of Christ, of being Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.

What might this look like in practice? For many congregations, it might start with a conversation at a vestry meeting or retreat, reflecting on the question, and article, which prompted Frank’s blog post:

What measures should guide the management of a church? This is the central question in the article “What to Measure If You’re Mission Driven” published in July 2015 at the Harvard Business Review website. The answer given is not the usual numbers of attendance, membership, or giving. Instead, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California’s use of data is given as an alternative.

The article author, Zachary First, reports that All Saints has 8,000 members on its rolls, but that they did not just want more numbers. The church’s Rector, the Rev. Ed Bacon (from Jesup, Georgia) told him, “Sure, we love to see big numbers, but what really makes our hearts beat fast is transformed people transforming the world. Membership isn’t our business. Turning the human race into the human family is.”

Guided by this approach, All Saints replaced the question: How do we grow our membership?, with a question more focused on the outcome the leadership desired: How do we more deeply engage the people we serve? The size of All Saints made gathering data a little trickier than at a church where the priest and vestry members know all the other members. They began with software to track engagement and weighted some engagement more significant than others.

All Saints’ approach certainly isn’t the only option, but I do like the way they turned typical stats around by asking a different question. Rather than asking how many people are a part of the church, they asked how engaged those attending were and so rather than wondering how to get more bodies, they worked on more fully connecting with the folks already present. The full article is online here: What to measure if you’re mission driven.

What do you think of the approach? How might you adapt it to your congregation? Asked differently, if we are in the business of changing lives by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then how is business?

Try This:
How do you know your church is meeting its goals? What do you measure? At All Saints Episcopal Church, congregational leaders moved away from asking ‘how do we grow our membership’ and instead focused on a different question, ‘how do we more deeply engage the people we serve?

This is a question many churches might ask themselves. What are some of the others?

Perhaps your congregation has a strong missional focus and is actively engaged with the wider community. What questions might you ask to bring out the richness and depth of this ministry? Challenge yourself to consider not only people served but also lives changed – including your own. Look to these posters from All Saints for ideas of how to connect, inspire, and transform and how to share the good news of these ministries with others.

Frank Logue is Canon to the Ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Before joining the diocesan staff July 1, 2010, he served as founding rector of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, Georgia. Frank began the church, together with his wife, Victoria, and their daughter, Griffin, in June of 2000. Read more of Frank’s blogs at The Loose Canon.

This post first appeared in July 2015 on Frank’s Loose Canon blog. It has been reprinted with permission. Introduction, Try This, and Resources by Nancy Davidge, editor, ECF Vital Practices.

Resources

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  • Do the things you measure and report on reflect the mission- and vision-driven aspects of your church?

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