The Critical Metric You’re Not Measuring – But Should Be!

(NOTE: This post was excerpted from the ebook “5 Crucial Church Metrics You’re Not Measuring (But Should Be!)”)


Few church metrics come with so much baggage as those centered around giving. We simply don’t know how far to delve into the generosity (or lack thereof) of our congregation. Often, it comes from an honest and well-intentioned desire not to prejudice ourselves for or against people based upon how much they give.

But it’s a mistake not to measure giving. In 21st-century North America, generosity gives us a bird’s-eye view into the human heart like no other church metric. Johnny Hunt, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia, puts it this way: “You’re never more like Jesus than when you give.” If Jesus is the spiritual-maturity barometer of a discipled Christian, then generosity has to be a critical part of the equation.

That’s why you want a giving metric that measures the breadth of your giving across your church membership. If your congregation as a whole isn’t giving— or giving is relegated to a relative few—you can assume you have people who need additional discipleship in the area of generosity.

“It’s incredibly valuable to know that we have 40 committed families, and we have 30 committed givers. That tells us we probably have 25 percent of our church [that] has not been discipled in that area or doesn’t have the means [to give],” said Brandon Cox, who serves as the managing editor for Pastors.com and the founding pastor of Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas.

Depending upon how your church tracks giving, this shouldn’t be tough to figure either. Whoever manages your accounting can simply isolate all your members’ giving records and count up the number of people who have given in the past month. Divide that number by your church’s total number of givers.

But here’s where technology can come into play and really help you see the facts and figures. We are living in a time where technology has evolved at an amazing rate, and the latest version of a computer or smartphone is outdated in a matter of months, not years. But in the church, we are often behind when it comes to technology. Whether it’s fear of change or an overwhelming number of options to choose from, decisions about technology seem to paralyze church leaders into indecision. Technology can be an extremely beneficial element to your ministry, particularly when it comes to generosity.                          

Did you know that the percentage of people using their smartphones to shop on Amazon cracked the 70 percent mark in December of 2015? Facebook sees similar mobile use. In fact, in April of 2016, Facebook reported that 79 percent of its advertising revenue came through mobile ads.

There are even articles being published on the importance of mobile giving for churches that cite some very important metrics, such as, 3 Reasons Why Your Church Needs to Consider Mobile Giving for Offering & Tithes.

At the end of the day, when it comes to trends like this, the numbers don’t lie.

My point of sharing these metrics is that the world today regularly interacts via smartphone, and that number is only growing as smartphones become more and more integrated into our daily lives. If your church is not taking advantage of this shift, you are not only missing out on connecting more with your community, but you are also missing out on the valuable metrics that come with it. These metrics can help measure the percentage of members who give, determine how effective and useful your current technology is, and make educated decisions about how well your technology serves your ministry.

What does this metric tell you? You’ll learn how well you’ve discipled your congregation in the area of generosity.

Things to Consider:

  • Obviously, if you have a high percentage of members who give in cash, this metric becomes very difficult to figure. Platforms like Pushpay can help with this by consistently driving your congregation to mobile giving. Churches that have adopted Pushpay technology have received 76 percent of their giving through mobile technology on average—that alone can give you a lot of data.
  • Everyone who gives between $1 and $10,000 in a given month will count toward this figure. You can’t determine how well your members understand the concept of tithing through this metric. Couple it with per capita giving to understand the breadth and depth of giving in your congregation.
  • Remember the cautions described earlier about numbers related to church membership. Make sure you have accurate church membership figures. (That goes for any of the metrics in related to church membership).

How to Improve This Metric:

Get plugged into a mobile giving solution. We live in a mobile world where your congregants expect to be able to give on the run. By encouraging mobile giving, this platform can increase the number of people in your church who give—and how quickly they give after joining your church.

  • Develop a comprehensive plan to teach stewardship to your congregation. Preach about stewardship on an annual basis at a minimum. Offer classes that help your members get on top of their debt.

To learn more about this and other oft-overlooked church metrics, click to read the rest of the ebook!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tobin Perry

Tobin Perry

Tobin Perry has been a writer and editor in Christian media for almost 20 years. He has worked for the North American Mission Board, Saddleback Church and the International Mission Board in a variety of editorial capacities. An ordained minister, he has also served as a lead pastor at a church in Southern Indiana. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and Gateway Seminary. Tobin currently lives in Evansville, IN with his wife, Charissa, and three children.

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5 Lessons about Church Giving that Amazon Can Teach Us

Way back in the mid-1990s there were a lot of companies gunning to be the leader in “online retailing.” (Who remembers Pets.com?) Amazon was an early leader. Since then, it has cemented its place as the “everything store” by offering a massive selection of items that are delivered at a shockingly quick rate.

Google is the search engine for knowledge. Amazon is the search engine for purchasing. 

In fact, 44% of all online shoppers go directly to Amazon to make purchases. [ref] When people give, our churches’ digital giving interfaces are being compared to Amazon’s. We need to learn about how this e-commerce retailer handles their customers and apply those lessons to our donors.

  • Reduce Friction // Have you ever noticed how easy it is to purchase something on Amazon? Over the years, they have focused on reducing the friction in the online shopping experience to encourage more people to spend with them. It’s beautiful to watch all the various pieces working together. Amazon Prime removes the “added shipping cost” from the “shopping cart” so we don’t slow down at check-out. They store multiple credit cards so you can decide where you want to charge individual purchases. The Amazon Dash buttons allow you to push a button and have common items ordered and shipped to you. The latest tool, Amazon Echo, literally allows you to call out orders from your home and they’ll ship them to you! Is your online giving system complex and hard to follow? Are you asking people to go through extra hoops that add to your convenience but to their annoyance? Is it easy to find how to give to your church on your website?
  • Send More Emails // If you are a regular Amazon shopper, you get a tremendous amount of email from them. Every time you order, you receive a confirmation email, a “your order is shipped email” and an “order arrived” email. You also receive regular marketing emails about categories of products they believe you might be interested in. If you browse certain items but don’t purchase them, Amazon will send you “recall” emails to bring you back to the site to purchase the item you were thinking about. You might not like all this email … but it works. It drives the behavior they are looking for. Most churches don’t send enough email. They are afraid to junk up inboxes. I’m not advocating sending the same amount as Amazon — just yesterday I received 8 emails and I didn’t purchase anything! — but I am saying churches need to send more. Obviously an acknowledgment email … but what about monthly statements rather than waiting for quarterly ones? Emails that show the impact of giving, or ones that show how people can set up a new aspect of online giving? These may move people from regular “one-time gifts” to “recurring donations.” Send more emails … it’s okay.
  • Invest in Long-Term Solutions // One of the things I admire about Amazon is their commitment to investing in long-term customer satisfaction rather than just chasing short-term trends. They have steadily sped up the delivery of their products over the years, reducing the time they call “click to ship” from days when they started to minutes in some instances today. This is an impressive feat for a company with 244 million customers. [ref] Investing in your digital giving solution is wise over the long haul. People are moving closer toward this approach than traditional donor channels from the past. It might take you a while to get it right, but people will be using this system for years. Gather your team and start working on this for your church. It’s not a short-term fad but a long-term shift that you need a solution for.
  • Don’t Miss Mobile // The Amazon app is a beautiful experience. It has a UPC scanner where you can walk into traditional “bricks and mortar” stores, scan items and compare the cost to purchase it on Amazon. I’ve purchased many items over the years after looking at them in the store and then buying them online. Mobile is the way people increasingly interact with the web. Your site needs to be “mobile optimized” so it works cleanly on a wide variety of phones, tablets and other interfaces that people carry around. In fact, your digital giving solution really should be seen from a “mobile first” perspective because all the trendlines are pointing toward that being where most people will interact with you.
  • Be Customer “Obsessed” // Amazon is crazy-obsessed with making people happy. They work hard to ensure customers love their service more than any other online store. It’s the first of their fourteen values and it permeates how they talk about and live out their mission. We know that when people give to your church, they are giving to what the Lord is doing — but sometimes it can feel like we ignore our donors out of a false sense of not wanting to show favoritism. Everyone who chooses to give anything to your church is vital to your mission. They are as important in making your services happen as that core volunteer who is “first in, last out” every Sunday. We go out of our way to treat volunteers with love and care … we need to do the same with our donors. On top of that, some of them have the spiritual gift of giving and, like other gifts, we want to see it exercised well within our churches. If we ignore people who give, we’ll miss the opportunity to develop those gifts!

Read more from Rich.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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Is Up and to the Right, Always Right? Understanding Church Giving Increases

I had a conversation with a pastor last week who told me that the giving in his church was on the rise and he asked how he should interpret that.

That’s a sharp pastor.

Normally, we only do an analysis to understand what’s going on when the giving decreases. That’s necessary and can be helpful, but it’s mostly playing defense.

It’s better to know how to interpret giving when it’s increasing, so you can understand it in the moment and lead accordingly.

You might consider this semantics, asking, don’t we use the same factors to understand giving regardless if it’s increasing or decreasing? Yes, to some degree that’s true. But deliberate cultivation of generosity when it’s increasing is the wiser stewardship because it’s proactive rather than reactive.

In other words, it’s like attendance. When a leader says to me, “My overall church attendance is increasing rapidly, but I have no idea why,” he or she can’t learn from or leverage the momentum. They are so excited and grateful, they receive the attendance as a gift and think, “I don’t know why I’ve received this gift, but I’m sure happy about it.” That’s a great attitude, but not the best leadership.

More importantly, if you don’t know why it’s increasing, you are less likely to understand why it’s declining, (if or when it does), and therefore, it takes you longer to change the course of giving.

If you only know why your attendance is decreasing, you are always reacting and playing catch up to a problem, rather than seizing the power of momentum. It’s the same with the giving in your church.

So, here are the factors the pastor and I discussed to help interpret an increase in giving.

1) A positive response to the vision.

If your giving is up, take a look at what you have been doing to communicate the vision and how the congregation is responding. Ask yourself why it’s working. Learn from it, ask questions of key leaders to discover how they are responding as well. Continue to refine and bring clarity to the vision and how you communicate it. A real test of vision is whether or not the congregation takes action.

2) Maturing of faith.

We know that giving follows in tandem with the increasing spiritual maturity.

As believers learn to trust God and obey His word, giving is part of a natural expression of faith. It’s rare that a nominal believer consistently practices percentage giving. When giving is increasing, be keenly aware of the spiritual dynamics in play from the prayer life of the congregation to their hunger for the Word.

What practices seem to be increasing and why? When can you learn and leverage to help people continue to mature in their faith?

3) Confidence and trust in the senior pastor.

In general, people will not give to the church where they don’t have confidence in the leadership of the pastor. And they certainly don’t give if the pastor is not trusted.

The more extreme examples need no explanation, but this is often difficult to discern in the more moderate illustrations. For example, if the pastor is liked, but doesn’t seem to have a clear direction of where the church is headed, the confidence of the people is likely low.

Strong giving is not only an indicator of mature and obedient believers but also that they have confidence in the leadership of the pastor. If you are not sure, one of the best ways to know is to ask several trusted leaders and confidants in the church, such as board members, prayer partners, and one or two key staff.

4) Relationally connected with others in the church.

People always feel more connected when they share meaningful relationships with each other as part of the congregation.

There are two primary long-term points of connection. They are small groups and serving.

Small groups carry a strong sense of community and belonging as people open up, get to know each other, pray and support each other in their everyday lives.

Serving teams often carry an even stronger sense of community because of the bonding that takes place when people serve together on a team focused on a particular goal or mission.


There are obviously other factors at play when it comes to increased giving such as the possibility that a single large gift caused the offering to increase substantially that month.

We learn different things if there are a few additional significant contributions or if there many smaller ones. It’s important to understand why a large contribution is given, but it’s more important to understand trends.

I’m more like the pastors who are just grateful when God blesses. I have caught myself saying, ‘You know, I’m not sure why the giving is so strong, but I’m very grateful.” That’s obviously not a bad thing, but the leader in me needs to be grateful and have a good understanding of God’s blessing. That enables me to lead farther and extend God’s Kingdom to the greatest potential. That will help you too.


Learn more about generosity and giving patterns – talk with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from Dan.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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