My background is in advanced IT—I’ve worked with some of the largest global companies on building systems that remain performant and resilient to failure. If a workload fails, the business loses money and its reputation. We have metrics that monitor all of this, and the company’s goal is to improve the workload’s performance and resilience over time.

When considering current church metrics, we realize (if we’re being honest) that they tell us very little about the health of our congregations. Let’s consider a few.

Current Metrics


You’ve seen it; I’ve seen it; many churches do it. During the service, someone will walk up and down an aisle (typically during a prayer time in order to reduce awkwardness), counting bodies in seats. If small groups or classes meet on a Sunday morning, attendance is also taken there. But what do these numbers actually mean?

  1. Church membership
  2. Corporate worship attendance
  3. Class attendance

Most traditional churches maintain a membership roster. In some ways, this could create a baseline for growth. When reporting their statistics, churches will include their membership count. However, it is way too common for churches to include “members” in this statistic who have moved out of town, state, or even country. We know these folks aren’t attending on a Sunday morning. So, while membership could be used for establishing a baseline, the baseline is already skewed from the beginning.

Next, let’s consider worship attendance. One could consider comparing attendance to membership and then calculate the percentage of those attending to the total membership count. There are two problems with this, though. First, as we just mentioned, most membership rosters are already inaccurate, so the percentage would not provide a clear representation. Our second problem is what this is actually measuring—attendance.

The reason tracking attendance is problematic is two-fold. On any given Sunday, there may be an influx of visitors (which is, of course, great), but walking up and down an aisle counting bodies doesn’t differentiate between the attendance of members and that of visitors. So, once again, the metrics are grossly skewed. Additionally, just because someone attends doesn’t actually mean they are growing as a disciple. Their attendance may be a reflection of their upbringing, habit, weekend ritual, or a given holiday/season.

Finally, let’s examine class attendance. Once again, this metric could be compared to overall membership but also worship attendance (considering the possibility that some may come for a class but leave prior to worship). This, unfortunately, is still just a numbers game as most churches have the proper system in place to distinguish between members of a class versus members of another class who are simply “visiting” the class versus visitors altogether. As a matter of fact, many churches unknowingly have created “dual enrollment”—the same individual is listed on multiple class rosters. Therefore, if individual attends one class, the other’s attendance report is negatively affected. If the individual is completely absent from both classes, adverse effects impact the overall attendance number.

As the old adage says, “Bad data in, results in bad data out.” We simply cannot trust our attendance numbers.

However, for a moment, let’s consider that all data is entirely (or mostly) accurate. We could measure the effects of our discipleship efforts by developing a growth strategy of sorts as represented by the following figure.

Figure 1: Church Attendance Segments

In Figure 1, we could attempt to measure a church’s discipleship growth by comparing those attending corporate worship to overall church membership. Then, again, small group or class attendance to those participating in weekly corporate worship. Finally, for churches that encourage some type of smaller peer group format, one could compare the attendance in such dynamics to the participant count of larger small groups or classes.

But, again, this model assumes that all data is accurate. Additionally, it assumes that an individual is engaged at all three (or four) levels.

Further challenges:

  • Can someone attend worship but not be a church member?
  • Can an individual attend a peer group (if available) without attending a small group or class?
  • Is it possible for someone to attend multiple classes?
  • How should we measure an individual who attends and/or leads multiple peer groups?
  • Most importantly, does attendance at any level reflect the actual growth of a believer?


Most churches report tithes and offerings on a weekly basis. Even if not publicly presented, a member of a church can usually request a giving status without too much fuss. However, if the Church’s commission is to go and make disciples, why is the overall budget used as a metric for determining this?

Should a church develop a budget and ensure that it remains operationally healthy? Absolutely; the church has a responsibility to remain debt free. Should a church create and maintain line items within its Chart of Accounts. Certainly; budgetary governance and spending discretion is critical to any business. Should a church monitor its expenditures? Yes; doing so can create accountability and help foster contentment within the organization. However, all these have to do with church stewardship, not personal discipleship or an individual’s growth.

For an example of this, one needs to look no further than the mite of the widow. Though she gave all she had, its impact was seemingly minimal on the temple’s balance sheet or P & L statement. Yet her faith was considered by Jesus to be far greater than many others who gave that day. Though the temple of that day may have been operating “in the green,” its financial reports reflected very little of the vitality of its members.

Additional challenges:

  • Should not a greater focus be on how the finances are used versus what was given?
  • Does a church operating “in the green” not reflect more on its ability to conserve and steward its finances than its members’ health and willingness to give?
  • Another way to ask the previous question…Just because a church has a surplus of revenue, does that guarantee that its members are being obedient in discipleship?
  • Or, the opposite…If a church is lacking in revenue, does it demonstrate a lack of obedience by its members? (Maybe the church should re-evaluate its budget.)

I’m sure that if we looked closely, additional metrics would arise in conversation (feel free to add your own in the comments). But, as asked above, how does this telemetry accurately reflect the discipleship levels of individuals within our churches? If we were honest, we’d agree that they don’t.

So, why don’t these and other traditional metrics paint an inaccurate picture of our church’s health? Because what is being measured is done so at a macro level, not an individual or micro level. Again, being honest, the focus of most churches today (even the ones that institute a system as in Figure 1) is macro discipleship—making disciples through programs and classes. And our metrics prove this.

The focus of most churches today is macro discipleship.

However, as demonstrated in Bible, discipleship was never conducted at a macro level. Instead, the Bible illustrates discipleship being performed at individual levels—1:1 mentoring through hardened, intimate relationships. Unfortunately, most churches operate at broad but thin relational levels, and this is only perpetuated further by social media and pop culture. Our churches prefer “Likes” and “Mentions” from their members over deeper relationships and stronger commitments to engage and serve. More and more churches tend to shy away from accountability and correction. Instead, they excuse their negligence by offering religious platitudes such as, “Well, we’ll let the Lord work on their hearts. I’m just glad they’re here.” This is a gross neglect, an utmost disobedience, and shameful attitude of many churches today. We must correct this ship, which should cause us to adjust how we measure growth within our congregations.

Applied Metrics

Many companies for which I’ve provided consulting services will highlight and praise their operational dashboards—most of which were dashboards “out of the box” and not created by the company. I’ll then ask them, “So, what do these dashboards tell you? What do they really mean? How do you interpret them so that you can correctly take action?” Unfortunately, many companies cannot provide answers (yet, they still remain proud of their colorful charts).

Without proper metrics, one cannot determine where to affect change. And all data that does not provide the right insights is just noise. When collecting data on our churches’ health and their individual members’ growth, we must determine what measurements are applicable and necessary. We should determine which metrics can be applied and improved.

All data that does not provide the right actionable insights is just noise.

Here are a few metrics that perhaps we should consider.

Mean Time Between Conversions (MTBC)

How often are churches seeing conversions? Some see conversions every week, while others are lucky to see a single conversion in a year. Most of the latter churches, unfortunately, only experience a conversion or two after a Vacation Bible School or “Revival” of sorts. What I find especially concerning is the number of churches that boast of thousands in membership but are seldom experiencing conversions or baptisms.

Now, I know the argument here to be, “God is responsible for salvation.” True. However, this sentiment is, in essence, a copout—for most, it’s laziness—and the Bible stands in judgment against this. We know that God is not “wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We also know that it’s not the fruit that is lacking but the harvesters (see Matthew 9:35-38).

In reality, there are folks in every community and at every doorstep who need to hear the Gospel. And though God is responsible (and faithful) for salvation, many in today’s churches are simply not faithful to share.

MTBC measures the heartbeat of the church for evangelism and local missions. It indicates how active a church and its members are in sharing their faith and how deeply they long for the salvation of the lost. Churches and their members should regularly witness the salvation of new believers. MTBC can be measured at a macro and micro level.

Mean Time Before Serving/Engagement (MTBS/MTBE)

How long does it take for a new member or new believer to get involved? How long must they wait before serving in some capacity?

To be clear, I’m not advocating that a new believer immediately starts preaching or leading a class. We are warned that doing so may lead to pride or conceit (see 1 Timothy 3:6). However, many non-leadership roles exist that are not out of bounds to a new member/believer. Some of these may include setting out or stacking chairs, the welcome team, folding and sorting bulletins (if your church uses them), upkeeping the grounds, food distribution, and the “handy-man” or repair ministry. The list goes on. Believe it or not, it even includes them participating in missions or an evangelism ministry. (HINT: They don’t need to sit through six months of evangelism training to share their faith. Their testimony is all they need.)

I’ve visited and even been a part of many churches that maintain such a laundry list of requirements before one is allowed to serve. This list includes things like a new members class, a “meet the pastors” luncheon, a spiritual gifts class, or even a minimum time of membership requirement (e.g., be a member for at least one year). Again, some of these things are necessary for roles that involve leadership. They give opportunity to assess and validate things like gifting and maturity. But they are a hindrance to someone who may simply want to greet visitors on a Sunday morning.

MTBS/MTBE is critical for two reasons. First, it helps the church identify bottlenecks within its processes to activate those who desire to serve. By measuring MTBS/MTBE, churches can look for ways to accelerate the engagement of volunteers. Specific roles or functions may be offered to new believers or members while the relationship grows. Additionally, these roles may be less significantly affected if the individual leaves. Damage control is maintained while measuring one’s commitment level.

Second, MTBS/MTBE is beneficial for identifying individuals within the church who are not engaged. These individuals may have a longstanding membership with the church, but they have either never served or have not served in a long while. MTBS/MTBE can lead to conversations with individuals who may be disgruntled, burned out, don’t feel a place is available, or simply don’t want to get engaged (which is an entirely different conversation). Overall, however, MTBS/MTBE can help drive re-engagement of a church’s members.

MTBS/MTBE is a micro or individual measurement.

Baptisms to Membership Ratio (BTMR)

Another measure to consider is similar to MTBC but is slightly different. Where churches typically measure overall growth by attendance (which, as covered above, has many pitfalls), they may wish to consider a shift to BTMR.

BTMR measures how many baptisms were conducted in a given period of time (e.g., quarter, year, etc.) to how many recorded members exist on the roster. Though I’ve presented some significant shortcomings of membership rosters above, BTMR can help correct these downfalls. Consider the following examples.

First, consider a church of 20 people who, in a year’s time, reported an increase in baptisms or membership of 2. This would be a 10% growth of the church. While it may seem very small, most churches would be ecstatic to see a 10% YoY growth.

Next, consider a church of 5,000-6,000 reported members. Let’s say the church reported an increase of 100 people (memberships and/or baptisms). In this case, when considering 5,000 reported members, the church’s YoY growth is only 2%. (In this example, I’m overlooking the potential of this church launching new churches as many large churches today still neglect to plant local churches.)

When comparing the two churches, which would you consider more healthy? Most would consider the latter church as being the healthier of the two. However, the first church demonstrated a potentially more significant engagement of its community. An unfortunate telling of the second church is that there may be many congregants who are members but are simply not engaged (or not obedient in sharing the Gospel).

An interesting side note is that, though we don’t label it as BTMR, many missionary churches in unreached people groups around the world are measured this way. They are measured by how many are engaged versus the unreached targeted demographic (e.g., 10 out of 10M are actively engaged in the local church). On the other hand, churches in established areas remain satisfied with merely counting attendance.

BTMR is both a macro and micro measurement. It measures the health and vitality of the overall church, but at an individual level. It reports how well the church and its members are engaging the local community. Additionally, it scrutinizes membership counts and holds them accountable to accurate numbers.

What are other measurements that you feel churches should consider for reporting an individual disciple’s health versus the church’s overall size?