When it comes to keeping score, churches in North America typically focus on three metrics: buildings, budgets, and the number of people in seats. There is nothing inherently wrong with counting each of these things. However, we need to ask if keeping score of how big our buildings are, how much money people give, and how many people show up is the best indicator of how healthy the church is.
These three metrics give us no real sense of influence a church has on its community. There’s no correlation between the number of attendees and the difference made in their lives. The same is true with how much money people give to a church and how large the church’s buildings are. If we’re honest, we count these things because they’re easy to calculate.
Churches in North America typically focus on three metrics: buildings, budgets, and the number of people in seats. These three metrics give us no real sense of influence a church has on its community.
The Counting Focus
While we often use the language of counting and measuring interchangeably, there’s actually a difference between the two. It’s essential to make the distinction because the church has largely been in the counting business. The result has negatively influenced how we think about the nature of the church. Plus, it has limited our impact on the world.
In the Kansas City Underground, our encouragement to the disciple-makers we coach has been “Focus more on measuring and less on counting.”
Our encouragement to the disciple-makers we coach has been “Focus more on measuring and less on counting.”
Counting gives attention to numbers. It’s quantitative. When counting, the question to be answered is “How many?” Sometimes our conversations about how many are about people and activities. Yet, these conversations are generally more directed to the size or amount of our resources.
Conversations about resources (in a time of limited resources) are usually conversations about sufficiency, such as “Do we have enough?” or “How can we get more?” We ask questions like “Do we have enough money for that mission?” or “Do we have enough volunteers for that ministry?”
The Measuring Difference
On the other hand, measuring gives attention to change. When measuring, the question is not about how many but how far. Conversations about how far are frequently about the change over a period of time. For example, “How far have we come over the past year?” Measuring is about qualitative change. Has the quality of something changed over time? In other words, has something gotten better or worse since the last time we measured?
Counting gives attention to numbers. It’s quantitative. On the other hand, measuring gives attention to change.
The church is a missionary entity, meaning that we are the sent missionary people of God. One thing we encourage microchurch leaders to measure is their own missionary behaviors. In our coaching conversations, we’ll discuss things like this: “In the past month, how have the relationships with my closest neighbors grown? In my workplace, which relationships with co-workers have gone deeper? In other networks of relationships in which I exist, which ones have I seen an increase in casual conversations turning to spiritual conversations?” We can pay attention to our intentionality as sent missionary people by measuring the growth of our relationships.
You might consider this merely as counting, but we could also ask, “How many people have I had in my home this past month? How many meals have I shared with people outside my family this week? How many times this week have I intentionally been a blessing to someone?” These questions measure hospitality and openness to more intimate relationships. Counting the right things better indicates a microchurch’s engagement in its neighborhood or network.
The Measuring Results
The reality is that what gets measured gets done. What gets measured gets repeated. When we count the things suggested in the above list, we know what is valued and the goals for which we aim.
Another important note is that measuring relates not so much to what is but rather to what could be. Measuring is about possibilities. As we coach leaders, we’ve found some of the best coaching questions are associated with measuring what might change over time. Coaching directs towards questions like these: “What are the social rhythms of the network of relationships in which you exist over the next month?” “How many of those can you engage to strengthen your friendships?” or “What tools do you think might be helpful to see your engagement in extraordinary prayer increase?”
What gets measured gets done. What gets measured gets repeated.
When thinking about discipleship both in the people and in the neighborhoods and networks where you live, ask yourself, “What changes would I like to see in people’s lives and in my community?” That is an outcome you can pursue. Next, ask the follow-up question, “What will it take to get to that place?” Then, ask measurement questions about that change, like “What steps have people in our church taken toward worship, community, and mission in deeper ways?” “What gospel conversations have you had with those in your church? What were those like?” or “What spiritual conversations have you had with sojourners who are exploring following Jesus, and what were those like?”
This is not an exhaustive article on measuring and counting. Both are important; however, we need to consider the scorecards we use. If all our data is around numbers that don’t correlate with transformation, then we should consider adjusting our scorecards.
Don’t miss our upcoming show, Nickels and Noses vs Disciple-Makers and Microchurches, that will air on Tuesday, July 12th @ 12:30PM EST on this very subject!
Brian Johnson serves as one of the founders and directors of the Kansas City Underground, a mission agency and decentralized network of missionaries and microchurches in Kansas City. KCU’s 40-year vision is to have a missionary on every street and a microchurch in every network of relationships, connecting with training hubs throughout the city, saturating Kansas City with the beauty, justice, and good news of Jesus. Brian, his wife Kristen, and their five kids live as missionaries in their neighborhood, seeking to build an extended spiritual family there.