Measuring Ministry

This past weekend was a busy one, and mostly with family.  My niece was in a field hockey tournament on Saturday so I went down to watch a game, then on Sunday I went to church, stopped by the World Trade Memorial to reflect and remember, then went out to New Jersey to spend more time with them.  They hosted a pot luck barbeque for their block, so I got to know some of the neighbors.

I particularly got involved in conversation with one neighbor who serves as the head of a 150-strong police force in a nearby community.  When he found out about my work in accounting and finance, he began explaining the changes he made when he began using crime statistics to manage his department and the impact those changes made.

Since speaking with him I’ve been thinking about the lessons we can take from what he’s done.  The concept I want to focus on today is measurement.  The primary role of accounting is to measure things as far as I am concerned.  As a result we measure how much we have in the bank, we measure how much the congregation has given the church, we measure how much each member has given the church, we measure how much it takes to keep the lights on, and on it goes.  And like our police captain, we can take non-financial measurements: what the average Sunday attendance is, how many new professions of faith have been made, how many people have been served through the community pantry, etc.

Especially important is combining financial and non-financial information to make program decisions.  Let’s say as an example that it costs $25,000 to run a program out of the youth center, a handful of teenagers show up, their grades remain poor and they’re still making poor life choices.  Do we feel that the church’s money is being put to best use?  Maybe it’s time to make changes to the program.  Or maybe a little bit more investment would give much better results.  Or maybe the program needs to be shut down.

As I write further, I realize that there are a few more things that I should mention about the topic of measuring things, but I want to keep this post focused and will continue this conversation again later.  For now though, be thinking about what can be measured in your ministry.  Perhaps even just making a list of your programs would be a start.  In the meantime, I’ll plan on writing two more posts about this: one on how to make measuring easier and another giving some examples of measuring programs.

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