Measure what Matters

I can remember as I was growing up my dad got this idea to build a barn (big enough to park a boat in). He drew the plans up himself and had in his mind that this was going to be one of those father-son bonding moments, a rite of passage into manhood so to speak. While some of us in the family look back at the moment more fondly than others (the barn was built and I don’t think a hurricane could take it out), I did take a valuable lesson out of the experience. “Measure twice, cut once.” Apparently accurate measurements can lead to a successful project, and a failure to measure accurately meant more time on the project, more money to buy more supplies, and a goofy looking barn that would probably come down in the first rainstorm.

As churches are in the middle of evaluating 2012 and planning for 2013 there are a couple of critical principles about measurement that we need to keep in mind…

What you measure tells people what’s important

If it’s something that you’re going to track and have put in a report that’s rolled up to decision makers than you’re telling your team it’s important. While everything is important, because everything has an effect on everything, everything can’t be equally important, so everything can’t be measured equally. Tracking with me? And what you tell people is important is where resources like staff, volunteers, and budget dollars are going to naturally drift. If the most important thing is butts in seats on the weekend, and that’s what gets measured the most, then guess where resources are naturally going to drift?

What you measure tells people how to behave

Measurement is a form of celebration, and what gets celebrated gets repeated. If a church measures the number of conversions and that’s the important driving measurement, than I can bet you that church is going to take steps to be a very outsider focused church. They are going to be very intentional with their guest services, signage and way-finding, the style of the weekend worship services, language they use, the messages they preach, equipping their people to share their faith, and mobilizing their people to get outside the 4 walls of their church building. By the way, how would changing what you measure about your weekend worship service from butts in seats to moving people into groups shift the behavior of your staff, volunteers, and church?

What you measure builds a future culture

What you decide to measure today (in 2012) tells people how to shape their energy and efforts in the future (in 2013). Measurements, I believe, are an incredibly overlooked and powerful force in changing the priorities and focus of your team. Which means, being wise about what you measure, and how you measure can be a valuable asset in shifting the culture of your church and can help you begin moving in a preferred direction.

On the other hand, it may not matter what you measure

You can measure anything and everything. From the job performance of your team members to the number of empty parking lot spaces available during each worship service. But if there are no consequences (good or bad), or steps taken as a result of those measurements then you’re just wasting everybody’s time and you end up losing leadership credits in the eyes of those on your team. Measuring the board twice before cutting is wise. But if you never cut the board, you’ll never get a barn.

So…are you measuring the right things, and what are you doing with the information you discover?

Posted in Leadership

4 Responses to “Measure what Matters”

  1. Kevin East November 9, 2012 at 10:56 am #


    Excellent post. As a non-profit ministry leader, I’ve found this to be one of the most difficult concepts to wrestle to the ground. Collin’s monograph, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” is a great resource on this topic.

    Have you created a list of what the church you lead should measure? I’d be interested to see what various churches measure. If our goal is transformed lives, it requires much work to decide what we’ll measure.


    • Paul Alexander November 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      All churches measure something…even if it’s simply attendance and the offering. But the most effective churches measure the results they’re looking for. You mentioned “transformed lives.” While a church can’t make someone’s life transform (that’s a work of the Holy Spirit), they can put them in the right environment. They can set up the meeting, so to speak. So the most effective churches measure movement along the spiritual maturity pathway they are organizing around. That may include worship service attendance, participation in some kind of bible study, and volunteering to name a few. But again the key is to measure the movement. Is it working? Are we moving people towards spiritual growth/health?

  2. Steve Elliott October 21, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    Great post Paul! As is said, not everything we do can be measured, and not everything we measure should be done!


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