Some will say to measure just one or two performance indicators and consider those ‘wins’. Others will try to measure everything or worst, the wrong things. Both of these extremes don’t help leadership in any organization. Why? And what’s a better solution?
There’s an incomplete picture when using one or two performance indicators to measure a church’s goal. Any organization, even the most simple, will not survive long measuring a couple of items. For example, an organization measuring visitation to the church and nurturing them into members misses the mark. This example ignores measuring donations or proficient accounting. Without this the organization will fail at some point.
Likewise, an organization can’t measure every item within a data-set or take on every mission. If an organization operates a local food pantry, is it wise to start other missions using the same resources? For example, a food pantry and supporting missionaries are two huge undertakings. While both ministries need help from local churches, a church needs to understand their focus areas. Each ministry requires measuring crucial information for a successful, long-lasting ministry. I would venture to say, few organizations if any, can do both well using the same church resources.
In business, many fail because they change their focus from their core competency to something that isn’t. Sometimes it’s a subtle change that happens over time and goes unnoticed. Most organizations wouldn’t realize it until they see decreased revenue (donations).
Then there’s ambiguous measurements like community awareness and involvement, program effectiveness, and so on. Ignoring church accounting or other areas, the organization would fail to see the big picture. These ignored areas can lead to membership loss, decreased donations, or poor accounting practices.
A better solution
Organizations need to review many inputs from various areas. The goal is to create an effective, streamlined, and growing organization. They shouldn’t go to either end of extremes listed above, like measuring a few inputs to measuring so many that it’s confusing. For churches, the broad categories include accounting, donations, membership, attendance, and group involvement.
An organization reaches goals, when its leadership understands the two extremes mentioned above. The church’s leadership cautiously selects the appropriate performance indicators to measure. Additionally, any organization needs key things to happen.
- Churches, like for-profit companies, need people with various talents. Talents like stewardship, volunteerism, orators, children and teens, leadership, financial savviness, and so on.
- Efficient and effective internal processes to handle the day-to-day operation.
- Financial stability with appropriate sources of income and expenses correlating to the organizational vision.
- Conflict resolution process for issues not resolved through day-to-day operations. This minimizes rumors and dissent.
- Transparent internal and external communication except for confidential information like donations.
When organizations try to measure everything or the wrong things, failure is inevitable. Churches are to be good stewards of their resources, but, yet there’s a time when too much detail goes overboard. Examples may include creating too many general ledger accounts, contribution or accounting funds. For membership it may manifest by having too many small groups or maintaining irrelevant data.
On the other side of the spectrum, not measuring enough inputs is little help. Churches make informed decisions based on how effective different ministries are. They need to know where to put their resources.
The focus should be, how does the analyzed data connect back to the people and finances in the organization. Does it paint a true picture of what’s happening? If not, then you are collecting and analyzing the wrong data.