In a recent conversation with a friend, we were bemoaning growth of all sorts: volunteer ratios. Attendance numbers. Waistlines after polishing off a fourth of a pecan pie. (Oops. Wrong blog post.) We concluded that there are weekends we walk away from church feeling pretty good about ourselves; that we pretty much have this ministry thing nailed. Other weekends, you can’t scrape us off the sidewalk because we feel so low and lousy that x went wrong over the course of the morning.
Neither feeling is helpful, because both feelings are…well…feelings. If a guest compliments our systems, then we feel pretty high and mighty. (“I am Systems Man, hear me roar.”) But if we discover that someone has fallen through the cracks…or a volunteer doesn’t show up…or the projector goes out…or an event goes awry…well, you can kiss a light-hearted afternoon goodbye.
Better than depending on feelings is to take a look at metrics. If I polish off too many fourths of a pecan pie, I need an objective measurement to tell me how I’m doing going forward. In my case, that’s going to be future calories I consume and pounds I lose…all tracked on an app and by my scale. If I want an accurate measurement of ministry progression, that’ll mean that I need to keep up with a few key numbers to see how we’re doing month over month, year over year.
For us, some of the crucial things we track are overall attendance, weekly volunteer numbers, and percentage of adult:volunteer ratios. We track way more than that, but those three areas help us to see progress – or decline – at a glance. If I’m feeling lousy about what I perceive as a bad morning, one look at the spreadsheet will tell me if my feelings are founded on facts. We may indeed be making baby steps, but even when a baby falls, they’re still usually falling forward.
I realize it’s not all about the numbers. I know that stories are usually better than statistics. But sometimes, those stats tell their own story. Sometimes, they can pull the emotions out of an exhausting weekend and let you know where you’re doing okay and where you still need some work.
Are you tracking?
No, really: are you tracking? Are you tracking the stuff that helps you see your steps? And if so, what are you tracking? Take a second and comment below.