Church Counting Tools: Not Adding Up?

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Over the past 8 months or so, a group of us have been considering the need to find new ways of identifying church growth or decline, as well as other changes in congregations. 

In talking with churches in transition, we have found gaps in some of the typical ways that we gather church metrics. As we are enter the CRC Yearbook season of gathering statistics and numbers, it seems like an appropriate time to ask some of the questions below: 

  • How do congregations reflect the once-a-month attending member? 
  • How does that same congregation reflect the non-member, person, or family who has been in regular attendance for the last 3 years? 
  • How do congregations reflect the recent and remarkable increase in commitment among the baby boomers?
  • What are the best metrics? 

Unfortunately numbers do not always add up or reflect the effectiveness of a congregation’s ministry. 

In Doing the Math of Mission, Gil Rendle tackles these issues by describing new tools for using metrics in ministry. For example, he suggests “measuring” rather than “counting” and tying these measures to the articulated objectives of the ministry—such as goals in leadership development, faith formation, or community engagement. 

One pastor noted that there are other metrics that are nearly impossible to give any quantitative measurement in terms of an entire congregation (such as growth in compassion or stirrings of a call to service). Yet, he did raise some other metrics that might be thought-provoking, such as: 

  • How many first time visitors did we have in the past month, quarter, or year? 
  • What percentage of the church participates in short-term missions each year?
  • How many Elders/Leaders are clear on their Biblical function or role? 

From where I sit, I see value in starting a CRC wide conversation about the topic of metrics and ministry. Let’s start that conversation right here, and right now.

What are your thoughts on the “traditional” counting tools for churches? What goals or metrics might be more helpful or accurate in reflecting your congregation?

Please post your thoughts or reactions in the comments below! 

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Let's Discuss…

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A great question! As a CRWM missionary currently on home service in the U.S. visiting 21 different churches across six states over the course of a short six months, we get a quick church-health snapshot of a lot of different congregations. In some places the decline is obvious and disheartening. In other places there are refreshing signs of renewal and growth.

Half of our work in Mexico is with Multiplication Network Ministries (www.multiplicationnetwork.org/) whose motto is "More Churches, Stronger Churches." This ministry, in fact, was founded by several members of the CRC and others (their global office is housed in Emmanuel CRC in Sauk Village, IL).

One of the tools we use in Mexico from this ministry is called "Take Your Church's Pulse." It is available in PDF format from the website and it can also be administered by means of an online survey. The heart of the tool is a questionnaire with seven questions in each of ten vital areas and ministries for every church (Vision, Leadership, Church Body Using Gifts, Resources, Context, Proclamation, Discipleship, Service, Fellowship and Worship). The point is not to "grade" a given church, but rather to promote healthy conversations about the church's life and ministry at this point in time.

Rev. Ben Meyer

CRWM Guadalajara, Mexico

bmeyer@crcna.org

If you want to compare the health of churches and you only use Yearbook data, you will be greatly disappointed in the accuracy of the data to do such a comparison. It is pretty difficult to agree to new metrics which will be used and measured the very same for all the churches. 

A discussion of the health of churches will be beneficial. I hope that many will contribute.

 

Is it possible to divorce "health" from "paying the bills?" 

Participant

We're using Doing the Math of Mission for our Council retreat this year, focusing on chapter 5.  I hope we have a fruitful, faithful conversation on how we can care for the future of our congregation.  Does anyone have any resources that can help us prepare for our retreat?

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