Being good stewards of the resources God has provided is not just something we hope we can do. It is required for operating more effectively and efficiently. The concept of being effective and efficient is the cornerstone of a business’s ability to be profitable or not. Even though churches do not exist to make a "profit”, we must make good, educated business decisions so that every dollar spent fulfills the church's mission. Businesses determine their effectiveness and efficiency by measuring performance against targets, goals or previous performance.
This is true for churches as well. Measuring performance brings greater awareness to ministry operations. Understanding trends translates into strategic leadership…..which in turn…grows your church.
How can we help our church leaders get the broad perspective they need in order to make the right decisions for furthering their vision? This is where I believe analytics come in. Analytics refers to the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. When looking at the measurements of impacts and not just dollars spent, you gain insight. By clearly defining a positive trend or successful community impact you are able to make results driven decisions.
There is a great proverb - Proverbs 29:18a “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” If we have a vision and we lead out that vision through our mission, we must be able to analyze whether our vision is being fulfilled.
Below I have listed some practical examples of analytics that increase the broad perspective and awareness of how we impact the lives touched through our ministry efforts.
- Percentage of increase/decrease of overall giving year over year
- Example: “Our church’s giving has increased by 3% over last year.”
- Number of new/lost giving unit
- Example: “Our church has gained 137 new giving units over the same period last year” OR “Our church lost 27 giving units over the same period last year.”
- Average contribution per giving unit
- Example: “ The average contribution for giving per attendee at our church is $45.00 per week.”
- Percentage of active people that are giving
- Example: “67% of our Members and Attendees have made contributions this year.”
- Average number of days between first attendance and first gift
- Example: “The average number of days between first attendance and first gift at our church is 75.”
We're constantly working to define success and set tangible, measurable goals for our mission. The most common measurement is the generosity of our members but there is so much more to be measured when trying to determine if we are changing the lives of those with whom we share the gospel.
- Percentage of back packs provided in our “back to school” project this year versus last year
- Example: “The number of children that received back packs increased 3% over last year.”
- Number of mission trips
- Example: “Our church has participated in 10 more mission trips over the same period last year.”
- Number of Small Group/Participants
- Example: “Our church increased the number of small groups by 25% over last year.”
- Average number of participants per Group
- Example: “The average number of participants per group is 10.”
Greater awareness helps us define the ministry’s desired outcomes in relation to the resources it utilizes. Our goal is to maximize the results, which in turn increases ministry effectiveness.
I've been told before by church senior leadership that they have a “hunch” that a particular mission effort will work and is worth the financial commitment. I am certain that the “hunch” is God inspired because against all odds it was a success. We need to be able to measure the outcomes of such inspired leadership and also be able to make smart decisions based on historical data. As we work every day to change lives for the better, having the right information will help us continue making kingdom building decisions. By clarifying expectations, defining success, and analyzing you are taking the right steps in growing your mission through vision-centered efforts.
Tammy Bunting is AcctTwo’s Director for Not-for-Profit Services. She is also the CFO of Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas. Tammy has more than 25 years of experience in accounting, business administration, operations, and management. This includes work in both the secular and non-profit Christian environments. She’s been responsible for providing the controllership functions of all business environments at a multi-ministry church enterprise, and been a partner in a thriving Intacct value-added reseller business. Tammy was raised and educated in the Christian church, and has a unique perspective into the world of non-profit and faith-based business administration and accounting.