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.


How can you move from where you are to the genius of the and?

Read more from Anthony here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >


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.

See more articles by >


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); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
— Dave
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
— Argaw Alemu
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
— Scott Michael Whitley

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.