Beyond the One Dimensional Scorecard: Count Vertically AND Measure Horizontally

Disclaimer: I’m not a certified church growth expert. I’ve not written a book on growing churches, nor do I pastor a large church that’s had a ton of numerical growth. But in talking with a very good friend of mine I’ve thought through some ideas and wanted to share my thoughts on measuring growth.end of disclaimer

Previously, I’ve blogged about the Fellowbackgrangepoint Church model as a way of trying to describe what I’ve seen happening with churches. You might have your own church model that might look more like the Willoharvesttemple Church or the Friendshipcommunityofbible Church or any other mash-up of churches that your leadership has tried to emulate.

At the end of the day there’s a lot of ‘me too’ churches that are honest and sincere in their application of proven lessons. But the results are an overlay of formats that are missing the key ingredient: who God called your church to uniquely be.

There seem to be a couple of prevalent schools of thought floating around:

  1. Measure attendance, because each number is a life in need of Christ
  2. Measure discipleship growth, because life change matters most

Why is it either/or instead of both/and? If a church has 10 people that go very deep in studying Scripture and are a tight-knit fellowship of believers, but never reach people in need of Jesus, they’re ignoring the Great Commission (go and make disciples). Conversely, if a church has a huge front door with thousands coming in and nearly as large back door with thousands going out, why aren’t they discipling those people who are in and out?

So here’s the question I want to posit:

If we count involvement vertically (attendance) and measure growth horizontally (how many serving/changing lives), our metric system is holistically valid.

Obviously, measuring attendance is a lot easier than measuring changed lives. But isn’t that worth the effort? I think it is.

We have to be careful in implementing this process, as it would be very easy for a leader to stop counting and begin judging those who are growing and serving with personal life-change. Yet, with a solid leadership infrastructure and a commitment of group leaders, capturing both anecdotal as well as tangible data is very do-able. In the end, I don’t think we should look for a hard and fast number for the horizontal growth, but maybe more of a barometer that gives an honest and accurate sampling of the result.

Given the plethora of church management systems software packages available, I know first-hand that the right reporting tools exist. The question is, are we being trained to use them to capture both the vertical and the horizontal?

How about your church? Is this honestly what’s happening? Or do you find yourself in an either/or situation?

It’s time for a new scorecard – one that counts vertically AND measures horizontally.


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Anthony Coppedge

Anthony Coppedge

On the team at Auxano. Lover of Jesus, my wife and my kids. Unapologetic Apple fanboy. Slightly addicted to MindMaps, but in a good way.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Anthony Coppedge — 04/02/14 11:09 am

Deb, The concept of a barometer is key to measuring horizontally; a barometer has a number of where it is...but the point of a barometer is less about the current number and more focused on both the increase/decrease of that number and the rate of change. Is the air pressure increasing or decreasing - and how quickly is it doing that? Similarly, we're looking for ways to understand Life Change, which is a relationally-driven measurement; we want to know how people are doing spiritually (good - increase; not so good; decrease) and their rate of change (have they begun to disciple others). So, it's possible to look at anecdotal information from group leaders, volunteer team leaders, pastors, deacons, elders, etc. to provide insight into the spiritual growth and well-being of their congregation. From a reporting standpoint, the old axiom of "you only get out what you put in" holds true. Every major church management system has relatively simple ways of getting pertinent information into the system, associated with the person/family. And while this is helpful for reporting on individual situations, it's more helpful to use as a trend analysis tool for the general rate of change (like the barometer) congregation-wide. Nothing replaces actionable insight like relational connection. Capturing snapshots of that information and providing trend analysis over time is a starting point for providing church leadership with the information that helps guide resource allocation and staffing utilization. Does that make sense, Deb? - Anthony Coppedge

Deb Troxel — 10/18/13 2:54 pm

I'd love to hear what tools others have found effective for measuring horizontally. When my congregation faced that question we developed an assessment tool with personalized resource guidance. The tool sets out clearly articulated goals, provides measures for church leaders, and encourages personal growth in members. We've made the tool available for other congregations - you can learn more at

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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