3 Hard Truths About Measuring Church Success

When you think about the metrics you measure the success of your church against, ever question why those numbers and thresholds really matter?

Were they historical—the way your church has always measured growth and development? Are your metrics turned upside down because now you have more people engaging with your church via your online ministry? Do you look at babies dedicated? Dollars given? Attendees and growth each year?

These are just a few of the questions Steven Furtick, lead and founding pastor at Elevation Church, challenged Summit One Day 2018 attendees to consider around how they view success. 

Typically, keynotes on church success delve into analytics and engagement numbers. But Furtick passed over surface-level details and focused instead on the fundamentals. He urged church leaders nationwide to take a deeper look at their church’s (and their) motivations and prioritize the metrics they should actually care about.

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Here are his three hard truths about which metrics your church should care about and what they say about your ministry. 

1) Success is Relative

The secret to success, says Furtick, is realizing and accepting that it’s relative—one church’s idea of success could be another church’s idea of failure. A small church having a Sunday service attendance of 250 people, for instance, could be seen as a success. That wouldn’t necessarily be the case for a church that averages an attendance of 1,000 people. Therefore, defining success by a specific metric is inherently flawed.

This isn’t to say that having goals tied to numbers isn’t worthy or even necessary in growing your church. It just means that there’s a difference between reaching a goal and being successful. 

True success—enriching your congregation’s relationship with Jesus and spreading the word of God—is immeasurable. In other words, God doesn’t necessarily care about your church’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

“The people of God have never known how to measure because we always insist on human metrics. But heaven’s metrics aren’t the same as human metrics.” 

—Steven Furtick

It’s easy to get laser focused on Facebook “likes” or YouTube views, but don’t let that make you lose sight of the overall goal. Balancing human success and God’s measure of success is challenging but necessary. Social media and online giving platforms provide useful tools for reaching and engaging with a wider audience. At the end of the day, however, it’s not about “followers” but disciples. 

As you and your leadership team create goals based on human metrics, start by considering how those metrics speak to your core ministry goals. You’ll likely find that the metrics most important to your church differ from those of the churches around you. Comparing metrics is easy; comparing success is impossible. 

2) Success is Bigger Than a Person or a Moment

When preaching to a congregation, it’s impossible to please everyone. And let’s say, just for fun, that you do make a positive impact on every single person during your next sermon. That won’t be the case every single Sunday. While it’s one thing to intellectually know this, it’s another to fully embrace it. We tend to focus on that one criticism, that one bad day, rather than a sum of the whole. 

“Who are you preaching for? What am I trying to prove to whom for what?… Some of you have reduced your calling to the level of your critic’s opinions and you can’t do anything.”

—Steven Furtick

Basing your success on the approval and applause of others will only leave you feeling short, as they’re unreliable and inconsistent. Hundreds of people can thank you and tell you they needed something, but one person’s criticism can make you question yourself. So rather, define how you want to succeed not based on other people, but on your own personal values. 

3) You Might Be Measuring Success by the Wrong Metrics

As we touched on earlier, the goals of your ministry will affect your metrics. To understand and land on your goals, however, you have to ask yourself why you’re doing any of this in the first place. Furtick notes that this is quite the existential question, and therefore not an incredibly easy answer to arrive at. 

Start by completing this sentence: “Success to me is…”

Basing the core goals of your church on KPIs rather than ministry will never leave you feeling satisfied. If your main goal, for instance, is to grow your church to a thousand people, you’ll quickly realize when you do hit that number that it’s not enough to fill your cup. You and your church have to determine for yourselves what you’re basing your goals on. 

Metrics are very important from a business and financial standpoint. They’re necessary. But they aren’t the whole picture or even the most important part of the picture. Christ is.

For more on diving into the goals and priorities your church leaders should all align around, download the free ebook, Vision, Mission, and Purpose: How To Grow A Lasting Church Legacy, today.

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