Do You Know Your Congregation’s Heartbeat?

It used to be that when a baby cried, you heard it.  Then came baby monitors and babies could cry by remote control.  Now a new line of baby wear, Exmobaby, has biometric sensors built right in.  Now a concerned parent can be halfway around the world and receive updates on junior’s  heart rate and body temperature right on their laptop or smart phone.

Good googely moogely.

Adam and Eve didn’t have these monitors installed in their fig leaves and I don’t happen to believe that we need that kind of constantly-updated information today.

But this time of year is, I believe, the perfect time to take your congregation’s temperature and to take its heart beat. 

By now your church should have reported its statistical report to the Conference that tracks everything from membership to budget to the number of members of your UMW.    I encourage you to dig out the last several copies of this report (f you can’t find them check the last Conference Journals) and track some key trends.

Number of identified givers.  I see you rolling your eyes about the stewardship guy going straight for money.  But if your average attendance is slipping, it may be because you have fewer families in your church but it may be because with busier families the number of us going to church 52 Sundays a year is dwindling.  IDed givers should be anyone whose money you can track:  pledgers, nonpledgers who pay by check, nonpledgers who put their name on an envelope, online givers, etc.  But I think you should track all three:  membership, attendance and givers.

Total giving for your church.  Lots of churches are concerned that their pledged income is sliding.  But we know that younger generations are less likely to make a pledge, even though they fully intend to give.  We’re not going to change that, I think we should just make peace with it. 

Money given to others.  Columns 41-50 report giving to Special Sundays, Advance Specials and other gifts to those outside the church.  Strong showings in these areas suggest that your congregation is on the road to generosity, which is a good thing.

Your reserves.  Column 35 is the value of your church building, 36 is your parsonage and 37 is everything else.  This is where you endowment and other reserves are reported.  The market is back up nearly to where it was four years ago.  But where are your reserves?   Did you plow through the aggressively as your offering decreased?  What have you done to replace them?  I won’t bash anyone who had to go to this pot of money, but if you did I think you really should be talking to your members about filling that pot back up in the next few years.

OK, so you get all of this information put together, then what?

First, don’t worry about the absolute numbers as much as you worry about the trends.

Second, compare your trends to others.  What are the results for the rest of your compass group?  Or your district?  How about comparing your trend with the Presbyterian church down the street?

You may not need to get vital signs as often as you can with state of the art baby jammies, but you do need to get a handle on them at least once a year.

Once you figure out where you are, pat yourselves on the back for the good news and develop a plan for your challenges.

And, as always, if the Foundation can help, let us know.

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