Why Church Stats Aren’t As Bad As You Think

How big is your church? 

The question the single-handedly created a whole new category, the “Pastor Numbers”. 

235 is supposed to round up to 300, right? 

It does in Pastor Numbers. 

If you read that and laughed, that’s awesome. While it’s a sad truth, at least we can laugh about it. If you read that and it makes you crazy, I understand…but don’t let it completely ruin the value of counting. 

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While deep down we know that pastoral ministry is about souls, not stats…but stats can still have some value in our soul seeking endeavor. 

Let’s agree on one thing, the goal of our life’s work is to introduce people to Jesus and teach them what he has taught us. That’s our ultimate objective. 

If you can agree with me on that, then measurements can help us move toward that. 

The Thermometer 

Just like a thermometer, measurements can help us diagnose what’s happening (both good and bad) in our church. It’s easy to be discouraged when less people show up this week then last, but if you are able to look back at the same month in past years you may see that previous years experienced the same trend, giving you a healthy dose of perspective.

It can also help to uncover which ministries are working and which are not any longer. Knowing how things are going helps you assess whether the investment in time, money and volunteer manpower is having the effect you planned. 

The Problem With Feelings

Sometimes your gut is right, sometimes it’s not (it may just be influenced by a one-off conversation). I remember a few season ago, we made a big change to how we advertised our small groups. Most of the long-standing group leaders complained that the new group's catalog was too confusing. Thankfully we reviewed our signup numbers and realized that while it might have felt more confusing to long-standing leaders, we actually had significantly increased the amount of people who signed up for groups. If we had gone only with our “gut” we would have ditched a completely successful marketing tool. 

Scoreboards Help With Momentum

Everyone wants to be on a winning team and it’s tough to know if you're winning if you don’t have a scoreboard. Imagine you are talking to your neighbor about your favorite sports team without talking about any sort of stat. What would you say? “My team is the best. They play hard. They practice on Wednesday nights and have games on Sunday mornings. Plus you should see their logo. It’s such a great team.” I don't know about you, but wouldn’t be that impressed. 

But if instead you said, “My team is the best. They have twice as many rushing yards as this time last year. Plus they have sold out the last 3 games.” If you invited your neighbor to join you at the next game, do you think they’d be more likely to join you? 

Numbers can be useless if all we use them for is vanity. But if you choose to harness them to your benefit they can be incredibly helpful. 

Bonus: If you’re looking for a simple (and free) way to start tracking some of your numbers check out It’s a simple customizable resource that will help you point to the numbers that matter. Just make sure you enter real numbers in there…not those pastor numbers. 

4 Rookie Management Mistakes Pastors Make When Setting Goals

There are four rookie management mistakes pastors make when leading their teams and setting goals. We all know how important vision is and that casting this vision is the core competency of a leader. But what happens when that leader puts down the microphone, takes off the "leader" hat and sits in front of his or her team and their team manager? Vision doesn't get you to your destination, it only tells you where you plan on going. What's missing are the next steps. I can tell you we are going to Disneyland, but we will still have to decide how we are going to get there. 


So what are the rookie mistakes we make as pastors as we manager our teams? 

1. Thinking that goals are the answer. 

Goals are not the answer. They are only a single tool in your tool kit that help you guide your team. If you fee like your attendance is stuck, making a goal to get past it is going to do very little to contribute to the solution. The clearer the goal the better. Measurable helps, but a goal in and of itself is not the answer to your problems. 

2. Spending too little time defining your targets. 

Most of the time, in order to keep things moving, we set delivery dates for our set of goals. On the surface this is a good thing but we must know when to break the rule. When we don't spend enough time defining the targets in our goals we risk using poor data to make our decisions. We throw down numbers off the top of our head and then fear adjusting them later because it might look like we have no faith in our team. 

3. Morphing into politicians when we talk about our goals. 

It's almost as if we made a campaign promos and we fear we won't deliver. So instead of addressing it, we hide it. We focus on the successes and shelter the missteps. We fear we will ruin momentum so we point all the attention to the good stuff (even slightly exaggerating at times to add an extra oomph). 

4. Only talking about them at the beginning and end of the season. 

This is a mistake that sucks all the potential out of our goals and targets. It, more than any other mistake, destroys not only your effectiveness as a team manager, but also of anyone on your team (volunteer or paid). 

So how do you avoid making these mistakes? 

  1. Use goals as the thermometer in your organization. If these really are the most important improvements you can make on the road to your vision, creating them isn't enough. Use them all the time. Constantly be asking "how are we doing on this goal?"
  2. Build the targets in your goals in two meetings. Define the goal and then set a follow up meeting for at least two days later. Give your team the time to digest and resort appropriate targets. 
  3. Don't be scared of sharing failure. Failure doesn't scare people, not being able to identify why is what scares them. 
  4. Print out your goals and bring them to every meeting. That single piece of paper will be the catalyst for change. Bring it up every week. What's our progress? What do we need to do this week to keep this moving forward? What obstacles are we running into? 

Each weekly meeting should consist of status updates and next steps. 

This is the kind of clarity that points your team in the right direction and focusses their daily efforts. 

So what then is your job? 

Define your goals. Make them clear. 

Then, ask for updates...every week. 

And celebrate every move forward. 

Repeat those last two steps every week. Ask for updates (clarify next steps when needed) and celebrate every move forward. Get excited! Ever step forward is progress. 

Goals aren't the answer, every step forward is.