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mission

5 Key Performance Indicators for the Modern Church

What statistics will actually guide mission?

In the business world, executives and management talk about Key Performance Indicators (KPI). These are statistics that help measure success and engagement in their market. The use of Social Media makes collecting this information easy.

 

Here are some of the things executives learn from their use of social media. It took many in the business world a while to adopt new ways. It is now accepted as a business “must.”

 

It has been a game-changer for many—particularly small businesses.

 

We’ve also noted how the same information could benefit church mission.

 

Keep in mind that most congregations never consider this information when they plan their budgets and mission activity and for good reasons.

 

  • This information was once difficult to measure.
  • Most church leaders are not business-minded.

 

Return on Investment

IN BUSINESS: How many sales resulted from the expense of research and development, marketing,  staff, etc.?

 

IN CHURCH: How effective is our annual budget at achieving mission goals?

 

The church NEVER measures Return on Investment. Dare anyone ask: What return is your congregation getting for the money you are spending on salaries and property? We never ask, so endowments are eaten away with no attempt to figure out why. We just accept that this is the way it should be.

 

Measuring the money aspect of investment in ministry is off-putting to the Christian mindset. So don’t. Analyze your ROI with this question: Is our mission being advanced by our investment in salaries and property—the major budget line items of every congregation? If not, how can our investment (in time, wealth and talent) insure that mission dollars ARE advancing mission?

 

Purchase Funnel

 

IN BUSINESS: How long does it take for a prospective customer to make a purchase?

 

IN CHURCH: Let’s call it the Membership Funnel. How long does it take from a seeker’s first engagement with a congregation to membership and involvement?

 

We should not only measure the process, but how visitors first come to us. (We still rely on people coming to us, don’t we? But that’s another post!). At which point did prospects commit or drop out. Congregations need to know this to fine-tune their mission strategies.

Membership Retention

IN BUSINESS: Businesses know that it costs much more to find new customers than to serve old customers. They call it customer retention. They measure it!

 

IN CHURCH: A congregation needs to know why and how members are leaving. Existing members are both the financial backbone of the present church and and important to the future. That means more than adding to the endowment. It is legacy. New members will notice how old members are treated. And yet some denominational advice is to ignore the old members, close churches—and in our congregation’s case — lock us out.

Goal Completion Rate

IN BUSINESS: Did we make our projected revenue? Did we launch the new product in time?

 

IN CHURCH: Congregations rarely state their goals in concrete terms. Mission statements are pie in the sky. Yet, measurable, concrete goals are the only way to actually achieve lofty missions.

A pastor of an average-sized congregation once told me that he was aware that to “hold its own” his congregation had to accept at least ten members a month. If growth was the goal, they had to exceed that average.

 

Does your congregation have concrete goals?

Incremental Sales and Traffic Sources

IN BUSINESS: In the business world, these statistics break down the larger numbers. For example, if there was an overall improvement of 50% in sales, what percentage came from television ads vs print ads vs internet? Additionally, what percentage was on the sales of widget A as opposed to widget B?

 

IN CHURCH: How many members came from attending programs? Which programs? How many were invited by members? How many were first approached by a pastor? How many learned of your ministry online? How many youth joined because of music or fellowship or a service project?

 

We can learn this information by engaging. Social Media facilitates engagement.

 

The information opens new doors for church analysts. The use of Social Media makes more information easier to collect. But still, most congregations limit their use of the internet to bulletin board/brochure-style sites.

viral mission

What’s Missing?

Add this one question to the list of questions above.

  • What is the connection potential of each member — old or new?

 

Connection Potential? What’s that?

 

The social connections of members are gold. Congregants are always encouraged to invite. But now congregations can engage congregants and others on Social Media.

 

Why bother?

 

Because your message will reach a vastly broader audience. You’ve handed members a powerful tool and you’ve expanded your evangelical power.

 

Consider this: If your members each have a circle of 250 followers they are in keeping with the average. Your members’ reach becomes your congregation’s reach. If you start to engage in ways that your members will be excited to share . . well, you do the math.

 

A church with 50 members is a small church, right?

 

Wrong!

 

Using very lowball figures:

 

If a congregation has just 50 members using social media and each of them has a following of 100 members (less than half the average) and each of them has a social reach of another 100 members, you have the ability to reach 500,000 people with every online post. You simply have to provide content that your membership will be eager to share.

 

Built into the use of social media is the ability to measure all the things you need to measure to be viable in the 21st century — no matter how small you are. So start sharing the Good News and learn how to achieve your mission.

Just for fun ask the members of your governing board how many followers they have on social media. Then ask your youth group the same questions. The statistics —and their potential—may surprise you!

Also just for fun – and to help your congregation break into social media: Talk to your congregation before worship starts about their role in growing the church. Invite them to pull out their cell phones, take a selfie with others sitting near them and shoot it off to their friends.

Some might protest. Their reasons will sound very valid in the thinking of twenty years ago. “It’s disrespectful.” “It’s distracting from the reason for coming to church.”

But it is welcoming and engaging. It communicates to your congregation that they can make a difference. A church we visited recently who did this had 500 worshipers in attendance.

So just maybe, it might help achieve mission.

Starting Over in Church Mission

baggageFinding the Modern Triggers of Faith

Every thousand years or so the Church should reexamine the way it works. Something might have changed that might influence our methodology and our success in mission.

The Church has survived the early days of Greek democracy, Roman Imperialism, feudal governments, monarchies, papist states, the re-emergence of democracy in a New World, and Western Colonization. That’s just a sampling.

You’d think the experience would have made us flexible.

So here we are at the dawn of a new age—the Information Age or the Connection Age.

The Churches of the Western World are largely spectators in our changing society. A new era arrived while our lamps were unlit.

Part of our thinking is skewed toward the habit of culturally dividing the world into Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Today’s world is more culturally divided by Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

The dividing line is actually slightly north of the Equator. The Northern Church is fading. The Southern Church is growing.

The Northern Church is used to being in charge—the leaders. Ultimately the Northern Church will follow the Southern Church. Where is the latest pope from?

What’s the difference between the two hemispheres? The Southern Hemisphere carries less baggage. Christianity is new and refreshing. The language, music, and customs of the North didn’t relate. There was little expectation that they would.

The Northern Church carries a ton of baggage. We don’t know where to begin in unloading it!

The current methodology for reviving mission is to concentrate on individual congregations. Dealing with the baggage of the past is one of the first steps church leaders take when working with congregations in transition. This can come in the form of discussion, or it can come from strong-arming congregations—even evicting them and taking property with the excuse that a new foundation for mission with no baggage is needed. Out with the faithful. In with . . . . who knows?

Either way, we avoid the reality that where change is most needed is in broader church structure. Talk about baggage! Most of the baggage in the church is in the overhead compartments!

Being the target for mandated change is a frustrating process for congregations.  We are  asked to perform the same old way, a lot better and faster, and with less encouragement and fewer resources. Meanwhile, Church leaders do nothing to change.

Truth be told, change is even more frustrating for regional bodies. They are desperate for success they can control and measure and that will sustain them. At the same time, they feel they must maintain the image of leadership—even as the economic foundation for their existence is eroding.

Congregations can exist without hierarchies.
Hierarchies cannot exist without congregations.

Sadly, the latest methodology is a symbol of desperation. The Church actually kicks people out, announcing that they will start churches over under their superior management. This hasn’t been working. The show of superiority and force is a turn-off in today’s world.  . Promising starts have faded within a decade. Mission churches fail at an alarming rate!

How do we change 2000-year-old thinking?

We have to be mindful that church involvement is a habit. The Church cannot survive without the cultural habit of weekly attendance and offerings. It’s these figures that we use to measure success.

We have relied largely on tradition to reinforce attendance and giving habits. Unfortunately, new traditions have replaced them. The Church probably has to concentrate on developing new opportunities for spiritual habits.

Habits are triggered by need. The Church has to identify the needs of modern society.

Why do people go to church? Why do they stay home?

  • People don’t go to church to be counted or to fill offering plates.
  • People don’t go to church to be loyal servants of clergy.

Habits are based on some trigger—some personal need.

Triggers might be:

  • Tradition
  • Personal Need
  • Imperative of Faith
  • Curiosity of Faith
  • Social
  • Compelling Emotion

Too often, we concentrate on triggers that no longer exist.

  • Love of organ music and 18th and 19th century music.
  • A desire to listen to one person’s interpretation of the Word.
  • A love of ritual.
  • Maintenance of property.

90% of most church resources are devoted to sustaining things that people no longer relate to.

The first step in reviving ministry is to identify the current triggers in your community. What triggers might change spiritual habits?

Stop sifting through baggage. A baggage-free church is an empty church.

Baggage will always be with us. That’s what the cross is for.
photo credit: loungerie via photopin cc

The Difference Between Mission Statements and Goals

Do Your Congregation’s Goals
Mask Mission
or Measure Mission?

Small churches are often asked to draft mission statements.

 

This is a common step taken in the corporate world. Things are a bit different there.

 

Most corporations are founded on the dreams of one person. The mission statement, in the corporate world, is often an effort to get everyone on board with what the management has already defined as the Corporate Mission. The people owe their paychecks to management.

 

The process is different in congregations. Congregations are more grass roots. The people drafting the Mission Statement are also the people providing the funding.

 

It helps to have an understanding of goals before a Mission Statement is drafted. It may be too late for that. But it is never too late to set goals.

 

In churches you have “management” in the form of clergy and regional offices. They carry a lot of weight even when the constitutions give the laity the job of management. In more hierarchical denominations, there is some remote leader who has some ultimate say.

 

The larger Church has goals for congregations. They may not be the same goals as the people who fill the offering plates—and the people who are given the task of drafting the mission statement.

 

mission2Mission statements are different from goals.

 

Mission can be worked at incrementally and can withstand setbacks—even failure.

 

Goals are measurable and potentially more critical for survival.

 

Goals change from year to year. Mission statements can change too but have a longer life.

 

You can achieve your mission without achieving your goals, but you are likely to be judged for failing to achieve goals.

 

Mission statements are lofty.

  • “To preach the gospel to every nation.”
  • “To make the name of Jesus known in our neighborhood.”
  • “To serve the needy with the love of Christ.”

 

Goals are practical.

  • To make this year’s budget.
  • To accept 20 new people each month into membership.
  • To improve worship attendance.
  • To hire a second pastor.
  • To replace the boiler or roof.
  • To engage families.

 

Congregational goals are often at odds with goals of church leaders. The goals of church leaders might read like this:

  • To find employment for pastors.
  • To make sure benevolence is a budgeted item.
  • To protect congregational assets.
  • To make sure that congregations are faithful to doctrine.

 

mission1Ideally, there is some commonality between a congregation’s goals and a regional body’s goals.

Work for a balance between mission and goals.

One can become the means to the other. This presents a confusing message to members and potential members. ”Is this church about mission or is it about goals?” A sure sign that a congregation is confusing mission and goals is when you hear this gripe: “All they are interested in is my money.”

 

You can acheive your goals and fail to achieve your mission. Many churches that are considered successful are very good at reaching goals with no mission direction.

 

Take a look at your ministry. Did you meet your goals this year? Did you have any goals? Did you fulfill your mission?

 

Churches never close for lack of mission.

 

Churches close because they didn’t reach goals—their goals or someone else’s goals for them.

 

Oddly, mission failure will probably be cited as the reason. It won’t matter how wrong this is. Damage will be done.

 

Goals trump mission. Sad but true.

 

Start paying attention to both NOW!

Redeemer Provides Multimedia Clip for SEPA Synod Assembly

God Is Doing Something New in East Falls—Video!

Redeemer and 2×2 takes SEPA’s recent request for congregations to make multimedia presentations about their ministry seriously. It is a goal of 2×2 to conquer video for use on its website, so it was a welcome challenge.

Here’s the YouTube link!

We learned basic recording techniques and syncing sound tracks to slides. We added transitions. We’ve got a lot to learn, but we are happy with our start and will soon share our experiences with others.

The mission possibilities are great!

Enjoy!

 

B to B or B to C? Or maybe churches are C to C?

Business people know marketing jargon, so when they meet up at a networking event, they know that when someone asks them if they are B to B or B to C, they are being asked if their business serves other businesses (B to B) or if their business serves consumers (B to C).

This language doesn’t apply much to the church world — or does it? The national church and the regional bodies are B to B. They are a church Body serving another church Body.

Congregations are more B to C. Their church Body serves individual Christians.

The concept is worth examining with fresh eyes and maybe a twist on this old business analogy.

The Church is actually C to C in two different ways.

Christian to Christian. That’s how evangelism works. It’s a play on the Frank Laubach missionary maxim, taught to all Lutheran children of the 60s. “Each one teach one.”

Or

Congregation to Congregation. Historically, the church has been very weak in congregations communicating, sharing and serving one another. There are token niceties exchanged at seminars and assemblies, but generally, it’s every congregation for itself. Pastoral turf and competition for members block the doorway for inter-church cooperation. They pull together to save money on church supplies, but that’s where cooperation often ends.

For the Evangelism Tools of the Future to Work this MUST Change

Social Media, the greatest evangelism tool the church has ever encountered, both creates and depends on connectedness. Congregations now need to work together. Without inter-church cooperation, which includes pastors cooperating, efforts at social media will quickly peter out.

Social Media thrives on content. Individual congregations are going to be challenged in feeding the content beast. But if they start working with other congregations, they will expand their possibilities.

How will this work? Here’s a possible scenario.

Lutheran youth in our area are planning a mission trip to an Indian Reservation. This common venture is supported by member churches and their individual youth groups.

An individual congregation might  put an article on their website or newsletter announcing the project. They might put a donate button as a call to action — and that would be that.

A more ambitious approach would be to learn as much about the project and the people they hope to serve and start TELLING THE STORY.

The content promoting this might include interviews with the youth as they prepare for the trip. They might be asked questions about their expectations, what they hope to accomplish. Church A might post two or three short videos with youth answers. Church B might do the same thing.

Then Church A links to Church B and vice versa.  (Add Churches C, D, E, etc.)

Why go to this trouble?

Because more gives a fuller picture, more is more interesting and more interaction attracts search engines—for everyone!

There will be a temptation to not do this, hoping that by telling just your congregation’s story, you’ll encourage anyone inclined to click a donate button and that contribution will come to your congregation.

That narrow view will cause you to miss out on the evangelism potential of the moment.

Here’s what could happen.

Members of Church A—beginning with the youth themselves—are loyal and check the web site to see their youth talk about the upcoming trip. They end up clicking the links to Church B and Church C. Connections have been made between the parishes. They are starting to know one another.

Members of Church A and Church B share the link to family and friends. Some of them send donations. They share the link, too.

Meanwhile, the local friends of the youth have checked up on them. They become interested and ask to come along. The youth group grows!

Meanwhile, the Indian youth in South Dakota see the videos. They comment and send a welcome message or make their own video and direct it to the youth they are looking forward to meeting in a few months. Dialog between the youth starts. When they eventually meet, they already know one another.

Meanwhile, a local church from a poorer neighborhood sees what the  youth in richer congregations are doing. They lament that their youth could never afford to go on a trip like that. They’d have to raise funds in a neighborhood with little to give. One enterprising mother decides their kids are not going to be left out. She contacts the churches that are having fundraisers and makes arrangements for several of the youth from their church to help with the fundraising efforts so they would have the experience of initiating a mission effort instead of being the recipients of mission efforts. This is life-changing for the young people in both congregations.

Also meanwhile, a youth group in Texas has happened upon the videos. They visited the Indian Reservation a few years ago and recognize some of the Indian youth who have commented. They invite people to come to Texas next summer to help with an outreach ministry in Hispanic neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, meanwhile, meanwhile — there’s no limit on parallel interactions.

This is the tip of the mission iceberg. Maybe no one clicked the donate button and your congregation lost $20. The value of the interconnectedness paid off in far greater ways.

How can your congregation become a C to C church?

Entrepreneurial Churches Will Survive

The Church tends to think of itself within narrow economic confines.

  • Church professionals will busy themselves with all things mission-related.
  • Laity will generously give money to them…and work hard, too!

The model is failing.

Small churches face the most pressing problems. We suspect that they hold some answers for changing things but are rarely given the opportunity to explore solutions. It is too tempting to just close them and rake in their assets.

Large church numbers are down too. Status quo must be the mission goal, because that is about the best you can find when reviewing parish reports—even in big flagship churches! A church boasting of 7000 members is likely to see only 10% at worship.

The temptation is to keep this age-old economic model going as long as possible.

  • Beg for money from people—be they dead or alive.
  • Build endowments that must be protected as a legacy for the hierarchy and not spent (or as synod’s tend to say, squandered) by the congregations that provide it.
  • As the smallest churches begin to fail, modify denominational polity to ensure congregational assets are churned into the greater church, whether or not the donors of the wealth agree.
  • Call the acquired assets The Mission Fund. Use it to help the hierarchy survive.

This is the current state of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (SEPA)of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). They are camouflaging a crisis. The only remedies we see being presented as we travel from church to church is more of the same. Commitment Sundays. Stewardship Sundays. It’s surprising how many of these we have encountered in our random visits. Lots of talk about finding the money to keep doing things the same way.

Churches continue to struggle.

And yet we keep trying to do things the same way—making the same mistakes over and over. 

Reality must be faced. Money for mission and growth is not going to come from the offering plate. There are simply too many worthy causes demanding members’ expendable income and some of them have the force of law behind them.

If congregations are to survive they must start thinking entrepreneurially. The resources at hand must be viewed as money-producing assets for the benefit of the congregations — not the synods! Mission must be the priority. Existing assets must be used accordingly—to ensure that the activities of the Church help fund the mission of the Church.

This may sound like new territory. It is not. Monks have long-supported their mission and lifestyle with entrepreneurial enterprises. 

If we are going to grow in mission in new ways, we must be willing to make new mistakes. Risk is necessary when the dependable model is failing. Otherwise we are fending off failure.

Why is progress so difficult?

The steps that need to be taken are unlikely as long as we rely on leadership from hierarchy that depends on churches failing for their survival.

Mission by the Book: A Sure and Steady Path to the Past

Following the Mission Manual 

There are such things, you know. Mission Manuals. They tell us exactly how to start a church or revive a faltering ministry.

Frequently, mission is all about replication. We try to do the same thing that worked so well, perhaps just a few years ago, but in a different place.

We follow flagship ministries that succeed because of unique vision and herculean passion and try to pull off the same success with no unique vision and the part-time commitment of clergy.

At times we go so far as to attempt to import people into neighborhoods. That early “manufactured” success can be measured. It might attract the regional body’s interest and their investment (coin, time, or talent). Perhaps the statistics will attract some unsuspecting part-time pastor!

Why do we try to replicate—and call it innovation?

  • There is comfort in routine.
  • We know how to measure routines.
  • We know what to measure in our routines.
  • We already have the training to do things the old way and the training to do things in new ways might not exist.
  • Who doesn’t like a roadmap?

Neighborhoods are not the same. In decades past, there may have been more similarity and more stability within a geographic era. Church mission concepts are geared to such commonalities.

But neighborhoods vary greatly these days. Change used to be generational. Now it can be expected, especially in urban neighborhoods, within five years.

Look at Philadelphia. There are whole neighborhoods where virtually everyone is in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties with just a few toddlers in tow (Fairmount). There are ethnic neighborhoods that are shifting ethnicity (South Philadelphia, once heavily Italian, is now the home of Southeast Asian immigrants). There are collegiate neighborhoods (West Philadelphia). There are neighborhoods that are very mixed racially, economically, and socially (East Falls).

No amount of forcing will make neighborhoods stay the same. Congregations must learn this. So must professional leaders. We must also learn that a successful replication may have a life of only five years — if ongoing changes are not recognized as part of the mission model.

The act of replicating means that a great deal of energy and resources are devoted to recreating the same model. By the time all of the pieces are in place and showing the first signs of stability (if not progress) there are few resources or energy for initiative. Congregations may be locked into the leadership that brought them thus far but will not be able to take them into the Promised Land.

So how can the church foster innovation when so much thinking and resources are designed to protect the status quo or the initial investment?

If we want innovative ministries. we must stop measuring old statistics. New ministries can’t live up to them. But they CAN forge new ground and show impressive advances.

The day will come when you can apply the old measuring tools. But, if you wait for the old measurements to be in place before you innovate, nothing new will happen.

We can illustrate many of these points by looking at the recent history (15 years and counting) of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (SEPA) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)’s attempts to do ministry with the people of East Falls. We’ll publish these separately. They are worth looking at if not for Redeemer’s sake (which would be welcome) but to learn what doesn’t work in the single-minded quest for transformation. There are many lessons to be learned from this one, largely misunderstood, ministry.

Plant It, Water It, Watch It Grow!

Last Sunday, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (SEPA) of the Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) held a gathering they called

“Plant It, Water It, Watch it Grow.”

It was supposed to be a presentation on SEPA’s mission work.

Redeemer wasn’t invited. We are the weed, we suppose, in the SEPA garden.

SEPA Synod evicted a vibrant, growing congregation, locked everyone in town out of God’s House, and sent a caretaker to rake the leaves and shovel the snow. He does a good job, the neighbors tell us.

But GROW! That’s the part SEPA Synod has trouble with. Almost all of its congregations are in decline or flat-lined. In fact,  Rev. Hilgendorf of St. David’s, dean of the NE Conference, addressed the Plant It, Water It, Watch It Grow concept and talked mostly of helping congregations save money by consolidating purchasing. This really has nothing to do with planting, watering or growth.

Botanists describe weeds as flowers that are reproductively successful.

What SEPA Synod needs is more weeds — like Redeemer.

They wouldn’t know what to do if they had a garden filled with them.

That’s why Redeemer is about to celebrate its FOURTH Christmas locked out of the church. And none of the people who attended Sunday’s “Plant It, Water It, Watch It Grow” conference have demonstrated that they care.

While all those church leaders were together talking about mission, we wonder:

“Did anyone ask about East Falls?”

We’re guessing not.

Mission Work: Old Ways vs New Possibilities

Several times in the last few years, I have listened to reports from various bishops and high-end church leaders concerning their visits to Africa. Some have visited Ethiopia, some Kenya, and some Tanzania.

They travel at their denomination’s expense. They return with inspiring reports of baptizing hundreds of babies and meeting church leaders.

They give these reports because they want us, here in the United States, to give offerings to these “approved” mission efforts in other parts of the world. They want us to sense that their denomination is actively engaged in the universal Christian mission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every nation.

This approach to mission work has decades of experience behind it. It also has decades of pre-social media traditions dimly lighting the way.

Is continuing this style of mission work effective for today’s world?

We serve an interconnected world. Sending official denominational representatives for on-site visits may once have been the only way for congregations to interact with mission efforts overseas.

Today, each individual has the power to connect. If the Church does not harness the power of the individual using social media tools for world mission, we are failing in our stewardship of possibilities.

Each congregation and its members have the power to communicate daily with Christians around the world. No intermediary is needed.

We can share ideas and first-hand accounts of our faith journeys. The exchange can be very personal — they with us and we with them.

A forward-thinking denomination would be working to create their own online mission communities. That would be providing a service many direct benefits. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They can simply harness the social media platform that suits them best.

The money spent on junkets might be better spent in building these social network circles.

It would bring new life into mission work.

2×2 is experimenting with this concept now. We correspond with several such mission ventures. We identify ourselves as Lutheran, but we’ve found no need to dwell on denominational distinctions.

As a result of our online outreach, we have first-hand reports of their work, almost daily — not just on mission Sunday. We get firsthand news! Our friends in Pakistan shared that a Lutheran Church in their city had burned as a result of recent violence. We prayed for them during the unrest. Two weeks ago they sent word that they were holding a prayer meeting for us as we faced Hurricane Sandy.

We know many in these fellowships by name. We exchange photos. We pray for one another and offer ideas and strategies. The exchange is truly two-way.

In case you are wondering, we have never sent money.

What will grow from this initiative remains to be seen, but we know this. There’s no holding us back.

God is doing something new in East Falls — and the world.

A Video Link on Discipling

A 2×2 subscriber working in mission in northern Sweden sent us this link today. It makes some good points which we are happy to share. Enjoy!