Monthly Archives: June 2013

numbers, stories, & altars.

Someone asked me recently what role I think metrics (or numbers or data as I will use interchangeably in this post) play in healthy church growth.  I love the question more than I love the answer I’m about to give.  I generally love the questions more than the answers, though.

Data matters in our church.  And in life in general, but I’ll stick to the original scope of the question.

Here at Renovatus our leaders set goals for the church. And because goals must be measurable in order to be actual goals, we use metrics and we collect data.

Setting a goal to “grow the church” is not a goal.  Setting out to increase Sunday morning attendance by 25% by the end of the year is a goal.  At the end of the year I can measure our attendance and see if accomplished what we set out to do.

Setting a goal to “support world missions” is not a goal.  Committing to raise the funds for a $25,000 church building in India in 2013 is a goal.

That being said, I have done this just long enough to know that growing a church isn’t just about setting goals and measuring things.  Not everything that is good and healthy and beautiful and Spirit driven can fit in a nifty acronym or in tidy boxes.  Trust me.  I’ve tried really hard to make it so.

Data and metrics tell us a lot.  They help us plan and forecast and steward our resources wisely.  They tell us when we may need more children’s ministry workers and community life group leaders.  They raise good questions like “do we need to re-evaluate the parking lot between services?” and “can we afford that gear right now?”

But data isn’t everything.  More precisely, it isn’t the end.  It’s simply the means.

Researcher-Storyteller Brene Brown aptly proposes that “maybe stories are just data with a soul.”  I love that idea for so many reasons.

Any time we’ve tried conventional church growth models on at Renovatus they simply don’t fit.  Much like David attempting to wear Saul’s armor we eventually learned to be comfortable with our own slingshot.  One of our rocks is a deep conviction and commitment to building altars.  So much so that we put it in our manifesto.

It says this:

We will build altars in the world. We will collect and tell stories. We will celebrate and honor the people, places and things that God chooses to use.

So we collect the data and we measure the things as a means to build altars, as a tool to help tell stories.

I read annual church survey results to my staff so they know what they are doing is working and that it matters.

I compare this year’s offerings to the last 3 years so that I can tell our congregation what they’ve accomplished and how their generosity has enabled some pretty incredible Kingdom work.

I keep up with the number of people we baptize and I want to see monthly ministry budget reports.  Sure, I am nerdy enough to find some satisfaction in simply counting things and making line graphs and spreadsheets out of numbers.  But the numbers aren’t the headliners- the people they represent are.

If the data can help us honor and celebrate what the Lord is doing, we’d be remiss not to collect it!

Building altars in the world is the objective.  Data is simply one of the tools in our toolbelt.

So, measure away.  Set goals.  Draw up plans.  Have at it.  Just use it all to help tell a good story.

Love, Tracey-girl

I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl.  More specifically, Tracey-girl, as I was called growing up.

My father & I are the only left-handed members of our family.  Somehow this became quite the bonding point for much of my childhood.  My mother would send me to my father to learn how to do everything, thinking that lefties must have a different way to accomplish the exact same things as right handed folk.  So, Dad taught me how to tie my shoes and how to throw a ball.  I still have my first baseball glove, fitted for my little right hand.

Like my father, I like to learn and find knowledge comforting.  I appreciate knowing the rules & expectations in any given situation. I take charge if no one else does. I make lists on index cards. I assume (sometimes to my own detriment) people to reasonable and rational.  I love (LOVE) salad.  I pick and chew on the sides of my fingers and the inside of my mouth.  I hold my head up in my left hand just like him with my thumb under my chin and two fingers on my temple.  Unfortunately I got none of his self-discipline and resolve.  I got ALL of his stubbornness incidentally.

I learned to dance in our living room doing the box step standing on top of my father’s shoes as he whisked me around.  I learned math at the dining room table, usually fighting back tears–pre-algebra didn’t make a lot of sense to me and the salt and pepper shakers being used as teaching illustrations only further confused and frustrated me.  I played Miss Mary Mack with him until I couldn’t take any longer his heavy USMA class ring  hitting against my little knuckles.  On special occasions I’d share MRE‘s with Dad, which were pretty much the coolest thing I could think of at the time and utterly disgusting to conceive of now!

When I was young I would always be the first one up after Dad.  He’d make my lunch for school and give me my Flintstones vitamin along with my Pop-Tart and Tang.  The morning was our time together.  I remember even then being sad at the prospect of growing older and sleeping in, thus missing my morning dates with him.

My parents divorced right before high school.  I was devastated when they decided I would live with my mother and my sister 90 miles away.  I always wanted to be where my dad was and the idea of not being with him hurt the most.

To this day, my dad’s opinion matters more to me than almost anyone’s.  His praise goes further than he can know and his company always brings with it a great deal of comfort.  Our relationship isn’t without flaw or effort.  But I am eternally grateful that ever since I could walk or understand that he was talking to me when he called me “Tracey-girl,” that I knew I was loved and invaluable to him–even when he didn’t quite know how to say it or when the miles between us were further than either of us would have preferred.  My father’s love and belief in me taught me to believe in and respect myself.  I couldn’t ask for more profound gifts.

Now that I’m grown, whenever I am in my father’s house, my favorite thing is to drag myself to the breakfast table in the morning, eat the chocolate chip pancakes he makes for me, drink the coffee he pours for me, and talk.  All that’s missing is the Flintstone vitamin and the Tang.

My father turns 68 today.  He’s still smarter than me, in better shape than me, and way more self-motivated than me.  He still inspires me to want more for myself and to enjoy the people and things I love the most.

You still hang the moon, Daddy.