We have no shortage of information. We are surrounded by data, but data alone doesn’t tell a story. An individual star in the sky may be beautiful, but only when you connect the three in a row do you see Orion’s Belt. Individual data points are less important than the story that they can tell when we connect the dots. Measuring the right things can give a full, accurate picture of what is happening in your church. Here are six ways to ensure that your data is telling the right story.

1. Attendance

This is where most churches start, but they often aren’t looking at the right metrics of attendance to give them meaningful information. Sure, how many people were at Sunday services is important, but what about small group engagement, or the church picnic? Measuring participation in areas other than just worship services can yield fruitful information. How many people come to a newcomer’s luncheon but are not attending the church three months later? How many children are there in sixth grade Sunday school, and what will that mean when they transition into the junior high youth group in the fall?

2. Giving

Most ministry decisions involve some sort of financial implication. Investing in new staff members or expanding to a new campus can either enhance the growth you are experiencing or overtax the budget. If you are not using comprehensive giving reports, it will be difficult to project the right timing of a new initiative and how it will affect the financial security of the church.

3. Growth

connecting dotsAnother very common indicator churches like to measure is their growth. There are many types of growth churches can measure. What is the percentage of people involved in more than one ministry area? Do the newcomers to the church have similar demographics to the larger church? How are you tracking the spiritual growth of people in the church?

4. Missional Engagement

There are often two common types of missional activities: ongoing ministries and service projects. What can you learn about how people connect with the church by measuring their engagement with service projects and ongoing ministries? Are you able to see someone’s sudden change in involvement?

5. Digital Engagement

We are living in an increasingly digital world. How many people are giving online, and how easy is it for them to do so? Do you know how many people are streaming messages from your site? More and more people are communicating by text and social media. How is your communication strategy making use of these technologies? Do you know if they are effective?

6. Volunteers

Do you have a clear picture of the volunteers needed for each ministry area? Which areas need more help and which ones have more than enough volunteers? Do you know people’s interests? By tracking people’s interests and engagement in other ministry areas, you can determine volunteer opportunities that fit the person’s unique gifting and invite them to serve in that role. With this data, you can change the message from ‘we need people to help with the children’s ministry’ to “Steve, would you like to help with the auto clinic outreach? That seems like a perfect place for you to serve!”

7. Attrition

Churches often do not measure their attrition, because it can be painful to face the realities of why people leave. Finding out and tracking why people have left can help us adjust and create a better future.

Good decisions require good data. Making ministry decisions on gut instinct or a single point of data can be dangerous. Churches that have amazing impact have data that paints a full picture. It beings by tracking the right data. This will validate what you are doing well and identify what needs to improve.

How can improving your data and ability to measure the right information help your church take the next step?