Measurement, Assessment, and Programs

Measuring the work of the local parish isn’t easy. But, it must be done.

As David E.K. Hunter writes in Working Hard–And Working Well: A Practical Guide to Performance Management:

“Few beyond the occasional Luddite would dispute the assertion that if an organization does not collect key information about operational functioning, it cannot manage its performance effectively, reliably, sustainable, and accountably. The issue for performance management is not whether to collect data; it is which data to collect–and then how to convert performance data into actionable information to support both tactical and strategic decision making.” (p. 31)

Popular, traditional measurements for churches have often been # of attendees at any given service or event, spiritual giving ($), and (for missions/charity) # of people served or hours of service.

Problem is, these give an incomplete picture.

As Ed Bahler and Bill Cochenour write:

We’re not likely to throw away the traditional forms of measurement anytime soon, but increasingly vibrant churches comprised of spiritually maturing individuals are placing a higher priority on metrics that measure commitment and discipleship. They’re driven by how well they’re impacting their communities. They realize that being on mission is more than initiating and participating in mission trips and food drives for the homeless. It means taking ownership for tangible, positive results outside the church, investing in nurturing and growing the trees that ultimately will bear fruit.

This requires some customized, deep thinking at the local level to figure out the best ways to measure and monitor a parish. Remembering that we monitor because we care and want to do whatever God’s calling for us in ministry is with excellence. Measurement is a means, not an end. 

Here are some concrete examples from Bahler and Cochenour:

• The number of families led out of poverty
• The improved literacy rate of school kids tutored by church volunteers
• The number of mentors to teenagers of single parents
• The number of families in the church that have adopted underprivileged kids in the community
• The number of people in the church (not on staff) that see themselves as full-time, everyday life missionaries
• The number of micro loans your church provides
• The number of non-religious community groups using your church facilities
• The number of projects leaders in the community ask your church to be involved in
• The number of former convicted felons your church places in jobs
• The reduction of domestic abuse incidents from the time the church became involved in supporting at-risk families
• The percentage of the church budget allocated for those outside the church
• The ratio of people involved in ministry outside the church compared to people involved in ministry programs within the church

Most of these are probably irrelevant to your parish ministry. But, that’s the point 🙂 Your metrics and measurements need to be customized for what matters most in your parish.

Working Hard–Working Well (BTW, this book is available as a free download) offers the acronym CREAM to get on the right track with indicators for measurement, monitoring, or assessment. Each indicator should be:

Clear – described in concrete language

Relevant – tightly linked to essential variables that drive the outcome you’re looking for

Economical – affordable to measure! 🙂

Adequate – sufficient for the collection of what’s essential

Monitorable – measurable within the capacities of the organization

Now it’s your turn–have you had any positive or disastrous experiences with identifying indicators for assessment in parish life? If so, please help edify our online conversation by sharing!



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