Whether you’ve thought it or not, your church has an evaluation system.
Every service is evaluated by every attendee. They talk about it afterwards in the lobby. They share their impressions between friends.
If it’s really good, others hear about it. If it’s really bad, even more “others” hear about it.
We can’t help ourselves; we are made in the image of a God who has evaluated everything he’s ever made.
In Genesis 1, we find God giving himself a grade every day.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:17-20
We’re not supposed to judge the people around us, but we are supposed to evaluate the fruit we are producing.
During Jesus’ talk with his Disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus said,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
A good farmer inspects his vines for fruit. Then he takes action to enable them to bear more fruit.
Two Ways to Measure
There are two ways to measure the health of an organization. One is by quality; the other, by quantity.
Quality measures tend to be subjective. They rely on taste, perception, anecdote and intuition. Quantity measures tend to be more objective. They rely on numbers.
Numbers need to be interpreted, but they tell a story, and that story is usually very accurate. Healthy churches measure both ways.
Healthy churches evaluate by both quality and quantity.
Let’s look at quantitative data here. I’ll give you great questions to ask when doing qualitative evaluations here.
The Importance of Numbers
When I go to my doctor, he measures things in numbers: my weight, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. These numbers tell him a lot about me. I can argue with the numbers, but they don’t lie. If my blood pressure is too high, that’s a sign of bad health.
Likewise, we now know enough about what a healthy church looks like to be able to tell a lot about a church from its numbers. Here are eighteen indicators you may want to pay attention to.
1. Your Number of First Time Guests.
To maintain your current size, you’ll need three first-time guests each week for every hundred regular attenders. To grow, you’ll need to average five first-time guests per week. What’s your number?
2. Your Percentage of Return Guests.
The average church sees 6 to 10% of their first-time guests return for a second visit, 25% of their second-time guests return for a third visit, and 35% of their third-time guests become regular attenders. What are your numbers?
3. Percentage of Guests who Stick.
Average churches see 6-10% of their first timers become regular attenders. Outstanding churches see as many as 30% become regulars. What’s your number?
Note: these three numbers are indicators of the health of your Assimilation System. I’ve written about how to improve your assimilation system in Ebook #1: Keeping your Guests Coming Back.
4. Number of First Time Decisions for Christ.
Only the Holy Spirit knows for sure whether a person who indicates a first time decision for Christ represents fruit that will remain. But charting this statistic is your most important measure of fruitfulness.
Jesus said to go and make disciples, and a disciple starts with a decision to follow. How many adults, teens and children made that decision in your church last year? How many did your church help led to Christ outside your church (on missions trips and evangelistic ventures) last year? Compare this year’s number to prior year’s numbers and you’ll be able to see if you are becoming a more fruitful church.
5. Number of Baptisms.
Baptism is a step of obedience as well as a public declaration of faith. A healthy ratio for your church is to baptize about one for every three who make a public profession.
If you’d like help improving your Outreach System, I’ve written about it in Ebook #2: Attracting More Newcomers.
6. Number of Churches Planted.
Healthy things reproduce, and they reproduce after their own kind. Dogs reproduce dogs, people reproduce people, and churches reproduce churches.
Healthy churches intentionally participate in church planting. Sometimes they send out a group to plant. Other times they assist and partner with another church that’s sending out a group to plant. Healthy families usually give birth every two or three years. So do healthy churches. Aggressively healthy churches try to plant or support the planting of a new church every year.
How many churches have you planted or partnered in planting in the last ten years?
7. Total Giving.
This is a measure of the maturity and generosity of your church, and the key indicator of how much ministry you will be able to do.
8. Total Number of Givers.
It’s useful to compare this number to your total attendance. Tracking your ratio of givers to attenders year by year will objectify your church’s financial maturity.
Your city and county websites will tell you the average per household income for your area. Or, you can use the baseline poverty level income if you like. The important thing is to make a baseline guess at what a tithe looks like for a member of your church. Is it $6,000 per year? $4,000 per year? $2,500 per year?
Once you set that number (and it can be somewhat arbitrary), then you can measure your number of and percentage of tithing units and monitor them year by year.
If the number or percentage is increasing, your church is maturing in generosity. If you percentage of tithers is decreasing, your either attracting a growing number of newcomers, or diminishing in generosity.
10. Weekly Per-capita Giving.
Your per-capita giving will vary season-to season. At New Song, we see a decrease during the fall, when many newcomers begin checking us out. As these people commit to the fellowship and begin to grow, our per-capita giving rises. You may see an increase at Christmas, as salesmen receive their year-end bonuses. We see an increase during tax season, as our believers tithe on their tax returns.
11. Budget Breakdown.
Generally, healthy churches spent a little over 50% of their budget on staffing, 10% on missions and church planting, 10% on local outreach, and 30% on operations and facilities. This varies, of course, with the age of the church and whether it’s got a mortgage or not. Your church’s budget will reflect its values, but it’s helpful to compare your budget breakdown to other healthy churches.
If you’d like help with increasing the generosity of your church, I’ve written about it in Ebook #3: Developing Generous Givers.
12. Percentage of New Believers Being Discipled.
I believe the most important twenty minutes in a person’s life are the first twenty minutes after they express faith in Christ. Just as the health of every newborn depends on attention from nurses and parents, the health of every baby believer depends on the attention of spiritual parents and disciplers.
An important number to monitor is, “How many of our new believers are being followed up?”
13. Number of People Taking Spiritual Steps.
New Song’s system for spiritual growth is called, “Next Steps.” Habits such as a daily quiet time and weekly worship attendance help people grow in Christ. Relationships such as a mentor or disciple, and fellow Small Group members are critical for growth. We believe that “The more steps you take, the more progress you make.”
If you’d like help with this kind of process, I’ve written about it in Ebook #4: Growing Spiritual People.
14. Number of Volunteers.
Part of God’s will is that every believer serve according to their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10). There’s a rule of thumb in church growth circles that says churches with 57% or more of their attenders actively volunteering in the church usually means that the church is growing.
15. Number of Leaders.
In 1906, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed the 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. He went on to discover that this 80/20 principle was almost universal. It’s a good principle to know. 80% of just about everything in your church is done by 20% of the people. So one key to growing your church is to increase these “20%ers.” A church of 100 will have about 20 leaders. A church of 1,000 will have about 200 leaders. In order to grow, you’re going to need to increase the number of these 20%ers.
For help with this system, go to Ebook #5: Placing and Keeping Great Volunteers.
16. Weekly Worship Attendance.
Evaluating your weekly worship services is mostly a subjective (qualitative) evaluation. I’ll give you some suggestions for that in my next post. But, monitoring your weekly attendance tells you a lot about how often your members are coming, how many guests are joining, and how many regulars are exiting.
Because attendance varies by season, it’s prudent to compare this week’s attendance to this week last year’s attendance. We find it helpful to chart New Song’s attendance using a seven week moving average. We graph it on a year-by-year basis to compare peaks and valleys. What does your graph look like?
For help with improving your worship services, I’ve written Ebook #6: Putting on and Pulling off Meaningful Worship Services.
17. Number of Small Groups.
A rule of thumb is that you need one small group in your church for every ten weekend attenders. What is your ratio of groups to attendees?
18. Percentage of Adults in Small Groups.
Healthy churches have at least 40-50% of their adult attendance in some form of Small Group. Great churches have upwards of 80% of their adults in Small Groups. The highest percentage I’ve heard of is Saddleback Church, which has 130% of their adult attendance in small groups. If your church has adult Sunday School classes with fewer than 25 members, or your classes break into Small Groups during Sunday School, those count as well.
For help with this you might want to read Ebook #7: Becoming the Most Caring Church in Your City.
The Work is Worth It
At New Song, it took us years to create the systems that enable us to collect, monitor, and evaluate all of these bits of objective data. If you can’t get to them all this year, start with the ones that seem most important to you. A good tool to help you track all of these is churchmetrics. You can download a free copy of their software at https://churchmetrics.com/.
Take it to the Next Level with the Church Evaluation Master Class
Trust me, everyone else is evaluating your church every weekend. Do you want to see what they’re thinking so you can fix it?
This church evaluation master class will teach you a system to measure and assess your church.
So you’ll know how to lead your church to evaluate and grow.
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.