HoyEffe 07-12-131  

Effectiveness by the Numbers

Counting What Counts in the Church


William R. Hoyt

Abingdon Press, 2007, 124 pp., ISBN 0-687-64175-8



William Hoyt is President of NexStep Coaching and Consulting, an organization committed to enhancing the effectiveness of Christian leaders and organizations.  Hoyt steps into the fracas between those who insist on measuring effectiveness and those who insist spirituality and a person's heart are not subject to metrics.  The book aims to help church leaders increase their ministry effectiveness by measuring the right things in the right ways.  I find myself identifying with Billy Martin who claimed in the commercial that he felt very strongly both ways.  A CD in the back of the book contains a whole series of spread sheets and a metrics manual for church use.


"If Jesus, the Great Steward of God's Mission, has given each church ten ingots of spiritual gold, and commanded them to go and invest wisely in order to make ten spiritual ingots more, then what exactly would that spiritual net gain look like?"  (Foreword by Thomas Bandy)


"Mission is what you measure.  Leaders measure what is really important, and don't bother measuring what is, in reality, unimportant."  (Forward)


Numbers matter in just about every arena of life.  However, church people may say, "Numbers aren't everything."  "You can't measure spirituality."  (Introduction)


"Accurately counting the right things can profoundly impact our ministry effectiveness."  "Jesus and His disciples counted.  They knew how many He fed with the five loaves and fishes."  "Therefore it is not unreasonable to expect churches today to use metrics to increase their effectiveness in doing God's work on earth." 


Chapter 1: The Fear of Numbers

"People count whatever is important to them." (2) 


"In my experience [in church], the worse things are, the less people count." (2)  However, most churches at least count the offerings.  They can tell how much was given.  (3) 


"Success in any endeavor requires that leaders count, count the right things, and count them accurately.  Most churches do not count the right things." (4)


"Over the years I have been told by many pastors and lay leaders that numbers do not measure spiritual success.  I cannot recall a pastor or lay leader in a highly effective church ever expressing this sentiment.  The fear of failure frequently expresses itself in a fear of accountability." (6)


"The Bible clearly teaches that God expects us to be both faithful and fruitful.  The phrase, 'Well done, good and faithful servant,' is found in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)" (7) 


Chapter 2: If You Could Count Only One Thing

What would you count?  You should count conversions.  They counted conversions as measured by baptisms on the Day of Pentecost. (9)


"Could it be that the modern, Western churches' ineffectiveness in evangelism stems from the fact that our hearts do not beat with His?"  (11)


"Jesus' instruction to His followers and to the church could not be more focused."  "There is nothing more important in God's eyes for a church to do than make disciples."  (referring to Matthew 28:16-20) (11)


"Effective evangelism begins with helping our own children grow to know, love, and serve God."  Therefore we should count the number of our children who are confirmed or baptized. (13)  "The ultimate way to measure our effectiveness at winning our own would be to track the children and youth confirmed and/or baptized over time, recording evidence of lasting Christian commitment." (14) 


"In doing church assessments, I often calculate the cost of each conversion during the past year.  By cost I mean how many attendees and how much money does it take to generate one conversion." (14)  [This might be a good figure to use as a benchmark for evaluating missionaries. dlm]


"Each church must find its own comfort level when it comes to the spiritual 'return on investment.' While 'return on investment' is a business term, I think it is an immensely helpful concept when it comes to measuring evangelistic effectiveness." (15)


"The rule of thumb I hold up to the churches I coach is a minimum threshold of one conversion per ten worship attendees.  If a church has an average weekly worship attendance of 300, it should aim for thirty adult conversion baptisms and/or adult conversion confirmations."  "Functionally what this means is that, on the average, each attender would have to be used of God to help produce one conversion every ten years.  Is this too much to expect?"  Is it enough to expect?"  (17)


Chapter 3: How Many and How Often?

"Attendance Does Not Measure Importance."  (19)

"Attendance Does Not Measure Success." (21)

"Attendance Does Measure Influence." (22) 

       More people are being influenced in a church with greater attendance.

"Attendances Does Measure Trends." (23) 

       "Just noting the trend is not enough.  It's coming to understand the underlying contributors to the trend." (24)

"Attendance Does Measure Outward Focus." (24)


"To sum up, attendance figures are not reliable measures of importance or success, but they can be helpful in assessing relative influence, tracking trends, and indicating the degree to which a church is outward focused."  (26) 


Saddleback is one of the top five most influential churches in America.  Its market share of the seven adjacent towns and cities is 4.2%.  Bethel Baptist Church in Hayes Center, Nebraska has an attendance of 62, which is about one fourth of the population of Hayes Center and a 5.6% market share of Hayes County.  The goal is the same for both, increase your market share. (27)



"How well do your worship attendance figures reflect the cultural, ethnic, and economic make-up of your community?" (28)


"You can get a partial measure of the depth of a person's commitment to your church by tracking the percentage of Sundays he or she actually attends worship." (29)


Chapter 4: How Many Stay?

"'Catch and release' is what many churches do with visitors.  That makes even less sense to me than 'catch and release' fishing." (31)  "Retaining visitors is the easiest way to grow." (32) 


"There is a common root for the fear of failure, fear of growth, and an unwillingness to change…the absence of passion for lost people." (35)  One district changed their vision statement to: "We see every congregation and ministry of the district effectively reaching the lost." (35) 


In one workshop delegates objected to calling people 'lost.'  They wanted a less offensive way to say it.  The author asked, "Do you think there might be a correlation between the fact your churches are not growing and the fact you find it so difficult to call lost people lost?" (36)


"It is the conviction that Jesus is the only means of salvation and way to eternal life that causes these churches to focus on evangelism…." (36) 


"There is a common mind-set found in churches that are effective in visitor retention.  It flows from the theological conviction that lost people are lost." (37) 


"Attraction is all about getting them to come to us, getting them to meet us on our turf, our terms, and our schedule.  Penetration is all about going to them, meeting them on their turf, their terms, and their schedule." (39) Effective penetration requires broad participation.  "The goal should be nothing less than activating every person in your church to 'take it to them.'"  "…people are more responsive when they are met on their turf and on their terms." (40) 


"Help people recognize the ordinary, daily opportunities to be good news, which in time create opportunities to speak the Good News.  Help people find simple ways to connect…."  "Simple hospitality can be a powerfully effective penetration strategy." (41) 


The minimum threshold retention rate should be 30 percent. (43)


Chapter 5: How Many Serve?

"For most people, missions means a few making a career choice, usually going to seminary, becoming a professional, leaving family, and going overseas as a missionary.  Very few churches overemphasize mission involvement in this sense of the word.  As a matter of fact, too many churches are silent on the matter, never challenging their people to consider serving God as a missionary." (46)  [Preach it, brother! dlm]


"A missional mind-set begins by redefining vocation.  Most think of their job as their vocation."   "By contrast, people who think missionally believe their vocation is 'to serve God' and their avocation is 'whatever they do for a paycheck.'" (46)


"Being a Christian is to serve God by serving others (Matthew 25:31-46, especially verse 40)." (46)


"Every follower of Jesus shares the same mission.  We have a common purpose." (46)


"Healthy, growing churches infuse their members with the idea they are all on a mission from God." (51) 


"Leaders must have high expectations for ministry involvement on the part of their people." (53)


"Counting the people who serve in the community begins by systematically surveying your people to discover those who already have a community-based ministry." (56) 


"Wise leaders of highly effective churches are regularly identifying, recruiting, and training people, helping them find places of service in their neighborhoods and communities.  Wise leaders know how many community servants there are and where they are serving." (56)


"The third arena for involvement in mission and ministry is what I call 'serving in the world.'  The most obvious expression of this type of service is to be a pastor or career missionary."  "How about helping those who are a part of your church hear God's call and follow Him in obedience to serve needy people somewhere in the world."


"What if your church became intentional about placing people in ministry throughout the world?"  "Could it be that your church should set a goal to commission a certain number of career and vocational missionaries from your church over the next five to ten years?" (58)


Chapter 6: Who Are Your New Leaders?

"A common denominator in all highly effective churches is excellent leadership." (61)  "…the primary task of a leader is to produce more leaders." (62)  "Long-term productivity in churches requires the continual development of effective new leaders."  You need a system to develop leaders.  Such a system must "identify, recruit, train, and deploy leaders." (63) "At any given time a church needs leaders at all levels of development." (64)


"Spend time with potential leaders to discover what they are passionate about."  "What do people believe God has called them to do?" (65)  "When people are doing what God has called them to do, they will be passionate about it." (66)  "The only real training for leadership is leadership." (quoting Author Anthony Jay, 66)  "The starting point is the real world of real ministry with a supervisor functioning as teacher, mentor, and coach." 


"A better mind-set recognizes that identifying the potential in a leader often happens when the person is already deployed in a leadership role."  "Training happens on the job under the tutelage of a supervisor who coaches, mentors, equips, and holds him or her accountable." (67)


The metrics in measuring your effectiveness in developing leaders is simply to count the number of new people who have been identified, recruited, trained, and deployed during the time frame being evaluated. (68)  [I wonder if the quality of these leaders is adequately indicated by the numbers? dlm]


Chapter 7: Do You Really Grow By Staying Small?

The most common organizing principle for small groups is fellowship and Bible study.  Other purposes include prayer, accountability, and music.  Evangelism and ministry are least common but they should be the most common. (77) 


"Being a change agent is, in most churches, a dangerous occupation." (79)


Rather than to try to convert existing groups to new purposes, "you will find it far more strategic and productive to start new groups that are, from the beginning, organized around mission and ministry purposes." (80) 


"Counting small group participation is not rocket science.  It is not that hard to measure the percentage of your people who are involved in the small group life of your church." (80)


Chapter 8: What's More Important than Dollars?

"Being the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus is more important than money.  Mission and ministry trump all else…." (83)  "Second, stewardship is more important than dollars." (Remember the poor widow's mite.)  "Just about everything else is more important than dollars…in God's economy…" (84)


"If there is one thing all churches count, it is money!"  "The most important and strategic thing to measure is tithing." (85) 


Some say we are not obligated to give a tenth because we are no longer under the law, but Hoyt says, "Why would we ever consider giving God less, living in the light of His grace and generosity, than we were required to give Him under the Law?" (87)


"What I do advocate is that the pastor should know who gives and how much they give.  Furthermore, I believe that the church should know what the pastor's family gives to the church."  "No one gets to hide poor stewardship behind a veil of secrecy."  (90)


"You need not apologize for talking about money and teaching people how to manage what God has entrusted to them.  Jesus frequently taught about giving and never with an apology.  He was direct, matter-of-fact, and clear." (90)


"You can measure what percentage of people tithe, or you can measure to what extent your church as a whole tithes." "The method for measuring the percentage of people who tithe is simple.  You ask them."   "Divide the number reporting that they tithe by the total number of households in your church, and you will have your current status.  This becomes the benchmark against which your future effectiveness in growing tithers is measured." (91)


"Measuring the degree to which you are a tithing church is also relatively simple.  Research and discover the average annual household income for the communities included in your parish area."  Calculate from that. (92) 


Chapter 9: What Product Are You Producing Anyway?

"Wise and effective leaders start with the end in sight." (93)  "To use a travel metaphor, your vision identifies the city where you are headed." (94)  "Goals and action steps are like the succession of highways and roads you take to arrive at your destination or your objective." (94) 


Churches have a common mission.  "God clearly identified the product the church is to produce, namely mature followers of Jesus Christ." (Matthew 28:19-20)  "In your going…as you go…whenever you go…wherever you go…as often a you go…however you go…make disciples.  The church of Jesus Christ is in the disciple-making business." [Hoyt pretty well exhausts the participle, 'going.'  Thankfully he included the direct object, all nations, on p. 46 dlm]  (96) 


"Each church's vision is a focusing and narrowing of its understanding of its mission that enables it to accomplish that mission more effectively.  Remember, a ministry vision is a word picture of what it looks like as you accomplish your mission."  [Hoyt understands 'vision.'  Few do.  Most simply restate purpose. dlm]


"If our God-given mission is to make disciples [of all nations, dlm] our products must be mature followers of Jesus Christ."  "How do you know if you are producing mature disciples?" (97)


People often balk at measuring spirituality.  Hoyt argues that the Bible describes behaviors that indicate spiritual maturity, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  These are behaviors.  You don't have to capture all the biblical indicators or have a perfect list but you must have a list that is measurable.  He gives some examples. (98-99)

  The number of people who maintain a list of unchurched and unbelieving friends with whom they intentionally relate on behalf of Christ

  The number of people who participate in community with other Christ-followers

  The number of people involved in serving others in the church, community or world

  The number of people involved in a disciplined, ongoing study of the Bible

[While these are important activities, one still has to ask whether counting these things actually measures the spiritual qualities they are intended to represent. dlm]


Appendix: Metrics Manual - Your Practical Guide to Counting What Counts




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