The foreman wrote a big “9” in chalk on the shop floor. “What is that?” the second crew asked each other as they punched their cards and stepped onto the concrete shop floor. The foreman smiled, but did not answer. He smiled the smile that says, “You’ll know soon enough.” That question was the buzz that night. The buzz got louder as the truth began to circulate. Someone talked to a worker from the day crew. “That nine is how many widgets the first crew got out the door.” The next morning there was a line through the “9” and next to it, a big, white “10”.
Whatever gets measured, gets done. One of the best ways of rewarding is simply to notice, to pay attention, to acknowledge. Counting is not about ego; it is about caring. As Rick Warren says, “We count people because people count.”
Jesus taught us that a shepherd who had one hundred sheep and lost one would leave the ninety-nine to go after the one. Question: how would the shepherd know if he had one hundred sheep, or only ninety nine? Maybe he just happen to notice that Sally Sheep was missing. Or, maybe he counted. The simplest way would be to count. Counting is not an impersonal expression of bureaucracy or greed. It is an expression of caring.
Proverbs 27:23 Says it plainly: Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds. A good start on knowing the condition of your flock is counting.
One of the most caring things you can do is to measure the church’s indicators of health and growth and report these things consistently to the people.
It is one of the first things your doctor does, isn’t it? He takes your temperature, your blood pressure, your weight. He measures these things against normal standards of health. In other words, he benchmarks them. And right away he can get a general feel for your health. It is not the complete picture; more analysis will be needed for that. But, there is no use in doing the detail work until the broad strokes are painted.
Part of the role of leadership is measuring and displaying the right stuff. We need to be careful not to display too much. Reams of computer printouts never motivated anyone. A 9 on shop floor does. Leadership must distill the myriad of things the business is about down to a handful of things that are easily understood, measured and communicated. These are the essentials that matter.
Measuring makes life fun. Measuring turns life into a game, in the best sense of the word. What would a game be without measurements? Without a score board there would be no game.
I love to write. Every night before I go to bed, I have my computer count the number of words in this book so far. I have a carefully constructed chart of each day’s progress. Here is what it looks like so far. This is what makes writing fun–to feel that you are making progress. I do this on all my books.
Churches measure lots of things: dollars, worship attendance, Sunday School attendance, baptisms, new members, and so on. This is good for background analysis, like all the background statistics in a football game. All those extra numbers make the real numbers more interesting. The real numbers are the ones on the scoreboard. The background statistics normally support the real numbers. Occasionally a team will be way behind in time of possession but ahead in the score. This is rare.
The thing that makes a sport fun is the simplicity of the score keeping instrument. The game is won or lost on one, easy-to-understand scoreboard.
Imagine a football game where a team walked off saying, “We may have not have had as many yards rushing, but we killed them in the air.” While the other team patted themselves on the back by saying, “Our percentage of red-zone conversions to touch downs was excellent. In addition, we had more first downs, and more interceptions. We were clearly the stronger team today.” No. What makes football fun is that one team can say, “We won, 14 - 10!” The simplicity of the score keeping system is what makes the game fun. Everyone understands it. It is easy to display. It makes the game a game. Coaches and interested fans can plunge the depths of other supporting statistics, as they do. Creators of games must keep it simple to make it fun. Churches, too, need a simple, easy-to-understand way of keeping score. This is what makes church work fun. Score keeping puts zest into almost anything. It works on the shop floor and it will work in church. The reason many people don’t find church work all that fun is the scoreboard is hidden in a closet, or, they have the wrong scoreboard.
Some would object that this is serious business. It is not about having fun. I agree. The Bible says to be sober minded. We ought to be serious about those things that are serious. And I am serious about having fun. It ought to be fun to come to church. People like to come to church where people like to come to church. It ought to be fun to do the work of being obedient to the Great Commission. It is fun for me to preach. It is fun to me to grow a class. It is fun to me to lead music. Growing a church ought to be fun. We ought to say with the Psalmist, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” (Psalms 122:1)
A lot of things make going to church fun. Good preaching is more fun to listen to than bad preaching. It is fun to be warmly greeted. Children have fun in a well appointed nursery with fun loving teachers. It is a lot more fun to go to a church where people get along than to go to a church where people are fighting. It is also fun to go to a church where people know how to keep score.
Most churches have a simple score keeping device, but it is a wrong one. The score most people watch is Sunday School attendance. If we had 100 we feel good. If we have 90, we don’t feel so good. If we have 110, we feel great. If we have 75, we feel awful. This is the wrong thing to emphasize.
The reason it is wrong is that you can feel good about the score most of the time and still not be growing. To put it more bluntly, you can feel good about the score and still not be obedient to the Great Commission. A score keeping device that makes us feel good when we are being disobedient is a wrong score keeping device. The score keeping device should reward growth, not measure relative position to a static number. This system encourages a church to stay on plateau. Perhaps one of the reasons we have so many churches on plateau is that the measuring system encourages it.
Some churches keep score with worship attendance. This has become especially trendy since worship attendance is often higher than Sunday School attendance. We feel better about the score because it is a bigger number. This is not about making us feel good. It is about tracking obedience to the Great Commission. If we believe disciples are made in small groups, this is a step backward. Jesus made disciples in a group of 12. I believe this is how disciples are made. I don’t think keeping score by Sunday School attendance is right. Keeping score by worship attendance is worse.
Let’s get honest. Some people keep score with money. This is not as bad as it sounds. Jesus said your heart and money go together. You could make a theological case for the idea that the larger the offering, the greater effect on people’s heart. Still, I don’t think this is the best way to keep score. It is surely to cause offense to outsiders. The score keeping device may also have a tendency to discolor our hearts. It is a short walk from this score keeping device to the belief that all we are after is money.
Another way to keep score is to measure baptisms. This sounds good. If we believe that people are to be baptized soon after they come to faith, then the act of baptism could give us a pretty good picture of how many people we are moving toward discipleship. In theory this makes sense. In reality it does not. The reality is many people who are baptized have not just been converted. They were baptized when they were 6, born again when they were 12, and baptized again after a revival at 18. What are we counting here? Many people are converted but are never baptized as believers because they feel it would denigrate the baptism they received at birth. In the jungles of Africa, number of baptisms is probably a reasonably accurate picture of the disciplemaking system, but here in America, it has some problems.
I do not believe any of the score keeping methods mentioned thus far are the best way to measure progress toward making disciples. Let me mention two ideas that I think are better.
One idea is to have people make a commitment, on an annual basis, to live the disciple’s life. You may define this in any number of ways. I have defined a disciple elsewhere as follows:
D - Disciplined in his daily devotional life. A disciple’s life is a disciplined life. There is no discipline as important as daily exposure to the word and prayer.
I - Intimate relationships. Growing disciples are involved in several deep relationships that hold them accountable in Christian discipleship.
S - Small group. Small groups are important for fellowship, outreach, and teaching.
C - Corporate worship. Corporate worship is a vital part of the process of creating a mature disciple.
I - Intimate family life. A disciple is a minister. His first ministry is to serve his family. One of the most important jobs of every Sunday School teacher is to produce stronger families.
P - Passion for God. This is a somewhat intangible quality. However, much of what it means to be a disciple is a matter of the heart.
L - Lay ministry. A disciple is involved in ministry in the area of his or her giftedness.
E - Evangelistic concern. Not everyone has the gift of evangelism. However, everyone should be ready, willing and able to share their faith. The heart of the disciple beats for the lost. They should be interested, open and looking for evangelistic opportunities.
S - Sacrificial giving. The disciple’s life is a giving life. This means giving of time and money. More than that, it means giving as an attitude of life.
You may want to define discipleship differently. What I want to suggest is that you do define it. Have people sign up to commit to live that life and keep score. This gives a pretty good overall perspective on how many disciples you are making. By tracking the number of disciples who commit each year and measuring the percentage growth each year, you will have a pretty good handle on your progress.
A more practical way of measuring success is based on the assumption that if people are in a small group, they are in the process of becoming a disciple. There are obviously exceptions to this. Many who attend Sunday School never become disciples. (I will suggest some additional supportive measurements for leadership to monitor in order to offset this reality.) Still, I believe that it is more likely that people who are attending Sunday School are moving forward in the process of becoming disciples than those who do not attend Sunday School. I believe attending Sunday School is good and worthy of being measured carefully. But it is not attendance in Sunday School that we should measure.
I believe Sunday School is a better measurement than worship attendance because I believe disciples are made in small groups. In large group worship, we are in danger of inoculating people against the gospel rather than giving them the real thing. But even if I were to keep score with worship, I wouldn’t do it on the basis of attendance. It lends itself to psychologically rewarding the plateau in the same way that keeping score with Sunday School attendance does.
I believe the best score keeping device to monitor on a week by week, month by month, year by year basis is growth in Sunday School attendance. Not Sunday School attendance measured as a flat number, but growth in Sunday School attendance, calculated as a percentage. If a church had 100 last year in Sunday School on this Sunday and they had 110 this year, this should not be reported as an attendance of 110. It should be reported as a 10% growth. This is not so important week to week, because of the fluctuations of attendance experienced by churches. Percentage growth on a month by month basis begins to be a more accurate picture of progress toward doubling every five years or less. If you want to double your church every five years or less, measure carefully the percentage growth in Sunday School attendance. The scoreboard should look like this:
●3% decline, or
If you try this approach, one thing you will notice immediately is that it is depressing. On average, most churches are on plateau and would report a 0% increase. This is good. We want people to be depressed by the lack of growth. This is far better than looking at a score board that says “100" and feeling smug that we had a good Sunday. I am just as happy with a child who cleans up his room because I made a game out of it as I am with a child who does it out of sheer obedience. I think God will be will pleased with us if we are obedient to the Great Commission, even if our motive was aided by a well-constructed game.
In most churches, I remind you, we do have a game. That is, we do have a score keeping device. Everyone knows if we won today or not. If we were above 100 we won. If we were below 100 we lost. If we hit 100 exactly we tied. Everyone understands the game. This is the sort of game that leads to a plateau. I suggest we change the game.
There is a good reason why we do not change. It is depressing. We ought to be happy that it is depressing. It ought to be depressing to be disobedient to God. When a team realizes they are behind, they work extra hard to catch up. This is what we want them to do. This is what they should do.
If you would double your church every five years or less, you need to constantly monitor the weekly, monthly and year-to-date percentage growth. You need to constantly keep this before the people. It should be bread and butter stuff for active members of the church to understand where you are in terms of percentage growth. You want people to say, “I am not sure what attendance was, but I do know we are up about 15% over last year.”
Fifteen percent growth is the magic number. Fifteen percent growth is what it takes to double every five years or less. In order to achieve this, monitor it and report it constantly in a myriad of creative ways. Make graphs and charts. I used to paraphrase the Great Commission by saying, “Go, therefore, and make graphs and charts of all nations.”
If you have to, get a big piece of chalk and write the percentage growth on the floor.
One other statistic ought to be carefully monitored by the staff and leadership of the church. It is what I call the “Velcro” factor. It answers the question, “How many of our visitors are sticking?” With “Wow!” services and programs and giving Friday nights to Jesus, you can keep this above 55%. In order to double every five years or less, keep the velcro factor above 55%. In addition, if 2% of the people attending your worship services are visitors, then you will easily get on target to double every five years or less. Let me give you an example of a church of 100.
Percent of Visitors
Number of Visitors Per Week
Number of Visitors Per Year
Number of New Members Per Year
Ratio of Membership to Attendance
Number of New Members Attending
Percent Growth Needed to Double in Five Years
The research I have done indicates that in most cases, the reason for a church’s failure to double every five years or less is not in the percent of visitors. It is in the velcro factor. People are visiting and not joining. Suppose this same church has a velcro factor of 20%, which is about average for many of the churches I have researched. Here is the same church, same number of visitors. Same attendance to membership ratio. Same everything except the velcro factor. Notice how dramatically this affects the bottom line.
The velcro factor is the difference between doubling every five years or less and not doing so.
Let me offer another example. I served as Interim Pastor for Scotsdale Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas for nine months. When I came to the church, they had been in a five year decline of about 25 per year. They went from 400 in attendance to about 275 in attendance in 5 years. The velcro factor measured ten percent. Ten percent of their visitors were joining. I taught the principles in this book and Double Your Class. I encouraged the people to give Friday Nights to Jesus and to invite every member and every visitor to every fellowship every month. We went from a 10% velcro factor to a 90% velcro factor. There were actually some months where we had more people joining than we had visiting. Growth moved from 10% decline to 5% growth. In that particular setting, we needed something else to get them on target to doubling every five years or less.
The second measurement that I would ask the leadership to keep up with is the magnet factor. The magnet factor measures how many new people you are able to attract. It is calculated as a percentage of total attendance. If a church of 100 has a family of 4 visit one Sunday, they have a 4% magnet factor that week. If they have none the next week, the average magnet factor drops to 2%. This needs to be about 2%. Notice how much difference this makes on the bottom line. Once again, consider the same chart with a church of 100. Look what happens when they see 1%, 2%, and 3% magnet factor.
The situation in the first column of numbers is roughly the situation we had at Scotsdale. We were having a very high velcro factor, but sill minimal growth. This was because the total number of visitors was less than 1%. The reason for this was twofold. First, the location of the church was terrible. Although it is easy to find it if you know where it is, you have to being going there to get there. Comparatively few people ever drive by Scotsdale Baptist Church. It is one of those situations where they could not afford to buy the land with the better location. By the way, nothing is more costly than cheap land.
If you calculate what this costs the church, in terms of number of visitors and number joining and number attending, the costs are enormous. You could probably make a case for the fact that the increased visibility would be free. since it would be paid for with the money of people who will not now go to the church since they never new about it. One of the most expensive things a church can buy is cheap land.
The other reason Scotsdale had such a low percentage of visitors is because they had been in steady decline for so long. New people know new people and naturally invite them to church. When a church is experiencing little or no growth, it will take a while to build momentum. Growth begets growth. When a church begins to attracts newcomers to the church, these newcomers will, in turn, invite others.
This is something people fail to calculate when considering the benefits of advertising. The first wave of visitors produced by the advertising is just that: the first wave. If those that are brought through advertising are satisfied by what they find, you can be sure they will bring others with them.
By the way, if you are considering moving to a new ministry position, one of the easiest ways to predict the growth potential is by discovering the ratio of visitors to members attending. If they have a high magnet factor and a low velcro factor, it is a very easy situation to turn around.
When you ask these questions, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Counting the total number of unenrolled attenders in Sunday School is not the point. When I speak of visitors, I am speaking of the names of new people that are viable prospects for involvement in the life of the church. Note:
●Out-of-town guests don’t count.
●A family of 4 counts as 4 regardless of age of the children, since this whole thing is based on attendance.
●A family of 4 that fills out a visitors card 4 weeks in a row only counts as 4.
●A family of 4 that does not fill out a visitors card counts as zero since you have no opportunity to follow them up. Ideas for getting visitors to fill out cards is discussed below.
●A family that attends your Christmas musical but is an active member of another church in town does not count since they are not legitimate prospects for your church.
I would encourage you to keep up with these things as best you can. On the other hand, don’t lose a lot of sleep over the fact that you are not absolutely positively sure how to categorize people. These things tend to work themselves out.
A major obstacle is getting the names of all the people who visit. The first thing I want to say about this is don’t work at it too hard. You want to give people some space to remain anonymous for a while. Some churches use the phrase when they greet guests, “We are not going to ask you to say anything, sign anything or give anything.” This is a more extreme example of what I would say, but it does demonstrate sensitivity to people’s desire for anonymity.
People who keep coming to church will usually want to be identified at some point. They want to start getting your newsletter and find out more about the church. The key thing is to let them know that the visitors cards are available to fill out anytime they want. They may not want to fill out anything the first week. Maybe they will wait till the third week or the third month. Just keep inviting them to “let us know who you are.” Offer them the benefit of receiving your newsletter and staying informed about the many ministries your church offers.
You might want to explain to people what will and will not happen to their cards. If you are going to do an in-house visit, tell them. If you are not, tell them that. We simply told guests that we would like to send them some information through the mail about the various programs the church had to offer. We also called visitors so we told them that. We flat out told them they would not have someone banging on their door. We felt like if they were going to want and expect a visit, we were better off telling them that none would be forthcoming. On the other hand, we knew that many were leery of being visited. We thought we would come closer to getting their cards if they knew we were not going to visit them. Once again, keep score as best you can, but don’t get paranoid. God is the ultimate score keeper anyway. -- Josh Hunt, You Can Double Your Church in Five Years or Less