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Why You Must Balance Stats and Stories

Church metrics. That’s not a very pretty phrase. In fact, for many, it seems cold. If church becomes a numbers game, then people become “just a number,” and when people are just a number, we’ve failed to emulate the ministry of Jesus. But if we fail to count anybody, we allow people to slip through the cracks and, therefore, fail to emulate the ministry of Jesus.

So how do you count people in a way that makes each person count? You balance the stats and the stories. In other words, who was there on Sunday is even more important than how many were there. I’m leading a breakout session during Exponential (it will be in their podcast some time soon) on “The Metrics of the Craveable Church.” I didn’t pick the title or the topic for that matter. But what I’m emphasizing is that how many people showed up is not nearly as important as how many people moved. How many people gave their lives to Jesus, submitted to baptism, joined a small group, and got involved in a ministry for the first time?

We’re planting a church, and when I travel, people often ask me how it’s going. Usually, they’re asking “how many are you running?” I usually know the answer because we’ve counted people, since people count. But I try not to give them numbers. Instead, I try to tell a story. A young man stepped up to give his life to Jesus, and he’s different now. A couple was spiritually disconnected, and they’re worshipping side-by-side now. An alcoholic feels accepted without judgment.

The statistics we take help us measure what we’re doing right and wrong, whether we’re moving people forward spiritually, and whether we’re effective. But it is the stories that tell us whether we’re actually doing the right things, whether we are speaking the truth in love, and whether we are really there for people.

I like stats, spreadsheets, and line charts, but they don’t melt my heart. Stories do. What’s yours?