As a leader of any sort there are things we measure in the well-intentioned efforts towards illustrating trends. With trends in hand we then evaluate our efforts or the efforts of the project we’re leading. If we are in retail leadership we measure profits, contacts and expenses. If we are in educational leadership we measure scores, publishing and research. But if we are in church leadership what do we measure?
If you’ve been around church long enough to see Chris Tomlin’s hairstyle change more than a few times you are likely thinking what I am thinking: dollars given and butts in seats. Money and attendance are indeed very visible gauges on the dashboard for church-leaders. Partly because of their immediate gratification and simple interpretation. But let me, in the next few minutes bring us all (myself first) back to a healthy attachment and interest in these two things.
I am not suggesting that we stop measuring, or stop caring about vital things like giving or attendance. The analysis of such data is inevitable, even in the most organic and missional movements. Rather let’s focus our attention on how we “trend” these pieces of weekly data.
The art of Trending, as I call it, is simply answering the questions of “How are we doing?” and “Are these efforts working?” When looking at that spreadsheet full of numbers most leaders are looking for trends. In reality the numbers mean nothing if you cannot plot them on an XY axis. The problem with most church leaders is we are drawing lines on the axis before we have enough dots. And in so doing we are declaring victory or defeat at the Super Bowl by counting 3-pointers. And if that’s not bad enough, we are doing it before the puck even hits the ice. –Oh crap, I think I mixed far too many metaphors.
If Jesus were to look at the excel sheet for each disciple after their first year, let alone their first month, the resulting data would have been pretty bleak. Even after his crucifixion the “data” was not promising as to whether or not these twelve were truly transformed and capable of leading the movement they were soon to be charged with leading. Yet here we are today, leading that which they started.
So as church leaders, especially pioneering ones like us, let’s be reminded this is a marathon not a sprint. Two weeks, heck two months, of poor attendance is not the “sure sign” that we’re headed down. Likewise, two weeks of strong giving does not mean it will go on forever. Here are few helpful reminders for us all in looking at such data:
1. If our goal is to Make Disciples, giving and attendance tell only part of the story.
2. For the data of Giving and Attendance to really help we need be patient and let them develop over months & years not days & weeks.
3. Maybe most importantly, never let someone who cares a lot about giving or attendance gather the numbers. Those who care, will typically either exaggerate or manipulate the data.
The reality is once we truly allow the sometimes overwhelming power of giving and attendance to take it’s rightful place on the dashboard we will merely glance at them as gauges to HELP us answer the questions of “How are we doing?” and “Are these efforts working?”.
In next week’s edition of Leading Thoughts I want to introduce a few other gauges often overlooked. I want to explore why these are so valuable to church leaders, especially church leaders who are looking for some spiritual data not built on the foundation of earthly consumerism. I pray you’re encouraged, and I hope to see you next week!