What do your Numbers Really Mean?

Technology // September 17, 2014

What are your numbers? Ever been asked a question like that before?

If it’s your doctor asking, then he or she is likely inquiring about your blood pressure, cholesterol, temperature, height and weight, right? Basics that, at a glance, help to determine the state of your current health.

If your golf pro is asking, then he or she is likely inquiring about your driving distance, number of putts per round, percentage of fairways hit and percentage of greens in regulation. These are basics that help a coach know the current state of your game, and where you might want to focus for improvement in your score.

If it’s your personal trainer…well, you get the idea. Different disciplines ask for and measure different numbers.

In your church, what numbers do you measure? You might think of measuring attendance in weekend worship services, attendance in small groups and/or Bible Study classes, the number of baptisms, the percentage of adults involved in a small group, recent offering totals, your offering compared to budget, etc.

These seem to be common numbers churches are measuring. I was intrigued by an info graphic contained in the recent 2014 Large Church Salary Report from Leadership Network (I’ll be posting more about that report later). They shared the top metrics tracked in large churches, including attendance, giving, baptisms, guests and small groups. Specifically, the list contained:

  • total attendance
  • giving compared to budget
  • number of adult baptisms/conversions
  • first time visitors
  • adults in small groups
  • attendance at each campus – if multisite
  • giving by campus – if multisite
  • number of new members
  • average giving per person
  • giving per household giving unit
  • other

I was pleasantly surprised to see average giving per person and giving per household unit on this list, but fewer than 25% of large churches are taking the time to calculate and look at these numbers. Over half of the churches surveyed are tracking attendance and giving compared to budget. And at the surface, seeing growth in those numbers, they make the mistake of assuming that everything is good. There is so much more to look at than these surface level figures.

Let’s consider looking at these numbers:

  • What is your number of front door (new) givers?
  • What is your average giving per attendee?
  • What is your giver retention rate?
  • What is your number of back door givers?
  • What percentage of your new givers were retained from last year, and how has their giving grown?

These kind of questions lead us to look at data and trends to determine the overall health of the generosity in our church. And this is a must-do item on our checklist. Without knowing where we stand, how do we proceed? Where do we start? What should we be focusing on?

For some, analyzing this kind of data makes your eyes glaze over and you start to hear a dull ringing in your ears. (If this is you, you’re not alone.) Fortunately, with the right tools at hand, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Generis has recently formed a partnership with the team at MortarStone. “Insights by Generis – Powered by Mortarstone” is a unique tool that examines giving metrics at a depth and detail unlike anything you’ve seen before. By interfacing with your current CMS platform, we are able to connect with your database, extract the data, and provide insight into what is really happening. It’s all at your fingertips with a simple tap on your trackpad! Here’s the key: You spend little time compiling the data, allowing you to spend more time analyzing the data!

I see it as three things:

  1. Review – what does the data say?
  2. Analyze – what does it mean for us?
  3. Strategize – what should we do about what we see in the analysis?

One of my current clients was lamenting how giving to the general fund was languishing after launching their recent capital campaign to fund a new building as part of their campus expansion. The pastor wanted to exhort the congregation to stay faithful with their giving to the general fund, and not have them move general fund dollars to the capital campaign fund. However, after a review of their giving metrics, his suspicions were not at all accurate. In fact, giving to the general fund had remained strong – people were not moving their giving to the capital campaign. What was happening? The church had lost a few key givers at the top of the giving continuum, and a couple of others who remain faithful tithers were giving a higher percentage this year, but due to income reductions in their personal situations, their actual dollar amounts given were reduced.

Without the analysis, the pastor would have been making general assumptions, standing in front of the congregation encouraging faithfulness from everyone (which sends a ‘something is wrong with our giving’ message) when in reality the people he would have been addressing were remaining strong in their giving. He would have been broadcasting a message to people to whom it really did not apply.

One of the things I love about the “Insights by Generis – Powered by MortarStone” tool is that as I review the data analysis with the senior pastor and senior leadership team, and as we look at different bar charts, worksheets, and giving metrics, inevitably someone in the room asks, “Is this our data?” Yep, it’s yours. You see – you have to have the “uh oh” moment before you have the “aha” moment. Insights will help you have both, easily and quickly.

For readers of this blog, I am offering a no-cost analysis of your data and a demonstration of what the tool can do. Whether or not you are considering a generosity audit or a time of accelerated generosity in general, now is a great time to start digging into these analytics! I would love to arrange a free analysis of your data and a preview of what “Insights by Generis – Powered by Mortarstone” can do for you. Contact me to arrange your free analysis.

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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