Church Growth Blog

Processes, Entropy and Metrics

Church Growth May 1, 2014

When it comes to processes you have two choices in ministry. Learn how to build great processes and let them work for you or ignore them and begin everyday with the same challenges, all over again. I compare the two approaches to the calm, knowing smile of a wise farmer versus the exhausting lifestyle of an action hero figure.

I am not a hero nor do I want to live the lifestyle. On most days I prefer the happy demeanor of the productive farmer. Processes are like good laying hens. Once you have them and they are healthy, they keep producing predictably good results, every day. You then get to go collect the eggs and the hero credit for the fruit.

After a few years in my first pastorate I got tired of, what I came to call, “déjà vu pastoring” moments. What’s that? It’s those challenging moments in ministry where you say, “Bummer, I’ve been here before!” Thankfully, there is a way to permanently solve the recurring challenges of day-to-day and week-to-week ministry issues. The answer is found in one word. Processes!

I recall many years ago when I first read Peter Drucker’s words from, The Effective Executive, “Crises happen. Recurring crises are always the result of bad management.” I would add one more statement. Good management utilizes reliable processes that fix recurrent crises.

I was talking to a pastor recently who shared his frustration with me. “I can’t believe what an unorganized mess this area of ministry has become! Just a year ago I personally got involved and got everything right.” It was impacting his church growth. I looked at him with an understanding smile and said, “It’s called entropy.”

Metric questions and answers empower a pastor to insightfully and successfully lead their church through the stormy seas of entropy.

There is a big difference between setting things up so they work right and putting a process in place. Processes by nature, have metrics built in. Someone is assigned to monitor them. Finally, someone(s) is tasked with fixing and improving them as they suffer the forces of entropy.

What is entropy in ministry? It’s a combination of all of the things that can denigrate the health of your critical operations and processes. It always impedes church growth. It includes many things from forgetfulness, passive aggressive attitudes, pride, irresponsibility, the loss of key staff, laziness and the lack of ongoing leadership—to name a few. In other words, entropy is here to stay.

Processes are the only reliable mechanisms that consistently produce desired results. Here is the really good news. Virtually anyone can learn to build great, effective processes. It does not take a management guru with an MBA from Harvard to learn how to master the art of process building. All you need is some determination, information, common sense and, of course, good metrics to measure the health or effectiveness of the process. The only way to overcome the unrelenting forces of entropy is to have good metrics and somebody who is actually monitoring and responsible for them. This is precisely where the wheel falls of the cart of accomplishment for most churches. Most churches are paying attention to the wrong metrics. For instance, a church’s weekly attendance is often a considered a matter of top importance but it provides no real predictive value as to the health of the church and, therefore, its future performance. You will need to find different metrics if you want to predict future church growth.

Contrast attendance metrics with a church’s visitor retention rate. Now this is a metric that is highly predictive of church health and future performance. Why? Because it’s a metric tied to one of the Key Processes of a church. I call it your “Velcro factor.” It measures your ability to connect visitors. How sticky are you? This is a huge metric that helps you to monitor and improve your Key Process of Connection. It monumental to ask, “How has our visitor retention rate been trending month by month over the last quarter or six months?”

Metric questions and answers empower a pastor to insightfully and successfully lead their church through the stormy seas of entropy.

Allen Ratta