We’ve seen how God’s sovereignty is behind all metrics, so how can we use metrics well and how can we use them badly?
Part of the problem is the way we often see the world use metrics. The world often uses metrics to define “value” or “worth”. E.g. If sales are low, the item being sold might be considered value-less. Or the marketing campaign considered worth-less. These are poor evaluations because something’s value and worth are defined by God, not by sales.
As we go about reviewing our ministry programs and projects, we need to use God’s word to define its value, as well as using human metrics to evaluate our methods.
That’s really what metrics are helpful at; assessing our methods and processes. They should make us ask the question “what did/didn’t work well as we did this worthwhile task?”
I’ve spoken to some people who think we shouldn’t use “# of conversions” when reviewing a project or program they’ve run. They’ll say something like; “conversion is God’s work”, or “we don’t have any control over that”. And on that basis they consider it inappropriate to use metrics like conversions.
But isn’t God sovereign over all things? Over every metric you could possibly use?
What about, “How many people invited friends”… Isn’t God just as sovereign over that too?
What about, “How many people grew in their confidence?”… Again, that’s God at work.
I think the real reason some people don’t like using metrics for assessments is because of how they see people use them badly. But let’s be clear, that’s not a problem with using metrics, that’s a problem with people who use metrics badly.
If there are two types of reasons “why” you might do something (see previous post) can you focus on one of those types of “why” too much?
If you focus too heavily on the “functional why” (because we want this result, because we hope this will happen, because this will help that, because they will be able to…), what might happen then? Some might tell you that you’re just a short step from simple pragmatism – doing whatever works – the end justifies the means. That’s a pretty catastrophic conclusion to make. Remember, this isn’t abandoning “whys of purpose”, we’re just talking about having a focus on one over the other.
What is more likely to happen is that you’ll drift into traditionalism. You’ll do what worked once before, and you’ll just keep doing that, because it worked. You’ll be reluctant to alter the methods – methods that really were built on solid theological reasoning and good intentions. But methods that don’t work any more because you’re not willing to re-think the principles.
What about the other way?
If you focus too heavily on the “causal why” (because God is like this and that, because the gospel gives us this heart, because this is our identity in Christ…), what might happen then? Some might say you’ll be out of touch with reality… that you’ll just preach the truth and not care about tailoring it to the people who’re listening. Again, that’s pretty catastrophic. More likely, (if it’s simply an over-focus) you’ll take risks and try things out, without being so hung up about whether they work perfectly or not. You’ll try things out and watch them fail a few times before you land on something that does work.
There’s good reason to lean in that direction, heh?
There are two ways you can answer the question “why?” There’s the cause and the function. The motivation and the outcome. The purpose and the result. They are both right answers to the question “why?”. Both need to be addressed. Both need to be answered.
For example… Why should bible teachers be regular bible readers themselves?
The functional reasons are important… so they keep learning, so they keep being humbled, so they understand better, so they can be a model and an example, and so on.
But the causal reasons are also important… because God has spoken and he’s worthy of our attention, because God is their father who speaks for their good, because the word God speaks is lovely to hear.
Both are right aren’t they? But what happens if you focus on one?
Just one question, asked again and again… “Why?”
“When you did that lesson, why did you do it that way?”, “Why did you talk to him rather than her?”, “Why did you sit there?”, “Why did you change your plans?”, “Why didn’t you change your plans?”, “Why do you think you’re feeling low?”, etc.
Everything a trainee does, regardless of whether it went well or poorly, can be brought back to the question, “Why?”
In fact it’s especially important to ask when things go well. You’d be surprised the amount of un-Christian, un-reasoned “that’s just the way we always did it” that goes on!
How do you know if they’re doing it with gospel motivations and values? You need to ask them “Why?”
We love to see God change people; by his word, because of his grace, thru his spirit, using weak and frail “us”. We rejoice in that change.
So help people to articulate their change. Ask them what’s gone on, what actually is different?
Ask them what they used to believe, and why they don’t believe it any more.
There’s more chance that the change will stick if they understand it better.
About 12 months ago I took an architect and a couple of our Committee of Elders to a 1970s warehouse and pitched the idea that by the grace of God we could use it as a home base for our church activities. They showed amazing trust in my intuition, they helped work out how to communicate it well to our church, and they pitched-in heaps. God showed amazing grace in getting it all finished too. It was a wild ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here’s some reflections a year out…
(If you don’t know about our HBC Hub, it’s for all our non-Sunday activities… we don’t do church there at all. It’s just for meetings, lunches, Women’s Bible Study, night time seminars, evangelistic series, welcome nights, anything… just not “sunday church”)
- There are ONLY 3 types of spaces you need in a church hub – these were the things I was looking for in the 80 or so places I looked at;
- car parking spaces,
- informal spaces (meeting rooms, conf rooms, cafe, entry, hot-swap desks, etc),
- utility spaces (kitchen, toilets, storage, photocopier, stationery, etc).
- (I’m really glad we didn’t use space for private offices. It can make it hard to have some conversations, but that’s what the meeting rooms are for. The space is too valuable.)
- Commercial building requirements are generally twice as ridiculous as residential ones.
- Labour is generally 4 times the cost of materials – so pray for helpers.
- Some helpers are great at one type of job, some are great at doing many. Get people doing their type of thing.
- People generally need to be given permission to start. If you find a good starter, he’s a God-send for helping others.
- It’s worth getting professionals to do jobs that everyone will look at in years to come… like setting the plaster on the gyprock.
- I’m glad we put the money into glass doors and extra glass panels in walls; it lets in heaps of light and it means there are no “unseen” meetings. Everything’s above board.
- Getting the right materials and tools on site at the right time took 80% of my time.
- While in the midst of it, I was very emotional. I was constantly on edge about how people would judge it, and if they thought it was a stupid idea. Even when they said they liked it, and they couldn’t wait, I still heard them as if they were complaining it was taking too long. Every question people asked sounded like an attack – but it wasn’t!! My ability to hear them positively went out the window. Towards the end of the project I took a week off before I became a complete wreck. That taught me a lot about my potential to mis-hear people’s intentions.
- Moving the staff coffee machine was the best way to get the staff to leave the old office.
- Some people clean well. Other people clean perfectly. Don’t get the former to do the last sweep, and don’t get the latter to come everyday.
- I wish I’d made the conference room a bit more square shaped. It’s 12m x 5m. It works. And I don’t think we really could have changed the layout, but it’s the only part I’d like to alter.
- The first thing we bought for the hub was a $300 leather sofa suite… 1 week before I even went to the Elders for approval. Having that sofa in the building the whole time meant a lot to me. I feel like I should leave it there when we move out.
- When you ask for donations, be clear that you will only take the things that you want. If people want you to take it on principle that it’s a donation, don’t. It’s amazing how many broken items were “offered”. Ask for people to donate new things, not old things.
- Have a list of things that you want to get, but you don’t have the money for… some people will only want to pay for those type of things. May as well let them.
- Have a celebration at the end. Rejoice in all the ways people have helped… time, skills, even the money that was donated and the praying that was done for it behind the scenes. We got people up and interviewed them simply on the basis that they gave money. It felt a bit weird but they sacrifice was just like all the others, so why not thank God for them?!
Whatever the group, big or small, whole church or growth group, it has a culture.
There’s a commonly agreed way things are. A commonly held idea about how things happen; evangelism, bible reading, singing, everything. You only notice it when someone does something different and all of a sudden it seems weird to everyone else.
So its worth getting a few observant people together and get them to answer that hard question… what’s become normal for “us” and are we happy with that as our normal?
Is something your running working well? Is your church growing? Are people coming along? Are people growing?
Don’t be too quick to assume its your amazing programs. Don’t be too quick to claim that God is blessing you specially.
Sometimes, things just work for a certain group of people. Churches grow at 5% per year because their suburb is growing at 10% per year. Maybe people just like your style. Maybe the time your running works better for people.
Don’t be too quick to over-spiritualise growth. Certainly God’s hand is at work, but it could just simply be through the the basic principles of the world he’s created.
If you want to see people change, its pretty rare that simply telling them to change will do anything. Telling people what they should think rarely gets them thinking something different to what they already do.
But reflecting back to them what they think… that’s powerful.
It requires asking loads of questions, trying to get inside their mind, see the world from their point of view… even though you know its skewed. And reflect that to them… “So what you’re saying is, you see the world this way…”
When you genuinely reflect back to someone what they’re saying, they usually start their own self-reflection. “Is that what I’m saying? Am I happy with that? It sounds like what I said but maybe I don’t want to think that.”
An added bonus to this is that, hopefully by God’s grace as they read God’s word, they will see the correction themselves. They will create their own solution, they will decide their own course of action.
And yes, that might have been the very thing you were going to “tell” them in the first case, but oh, don’t people get behind their own ideas more than others?!?
As we train and equip young leaders, we want them to grow in the skill of self-criticism. That’s a pretty tough skill to learn – cause you have to have a go, make mistakes, grow the “eyes” to see the mistakes, and have the humility to own the mistakes and create new ways to deal with it.
So as you get your developing leaders or MTSers to do that, don’t forget to model it yourself.
In 1:1s, in staff meeting, have the guts and the humility to do your own self-criticism. take them through your thing; be it an event or a sermon and let them watch you tear it apart yourself.
And if you want to go one step further, ask them to get in on the action.
So, you’ve planned, organised, delegated, ran and even cleaned up that big ministry event/thing. How do you conduct a review with the team?
1. Acknowledge the fears in the room; some people know they didn’t pull their weight. Some people know their thing didn’t really work. Some people are afraid they just about to get blamed. Acknowledge those fears, speak about them.
2. Go back and remind people of the purpose of the event. What was the big thing you were hoping it would achieve? Start by critiquing that. Was it a good goal? Would you keep it as the goal if you had the chance again? Did the purpose/goal slip from view in the planning/execution?
3. Avoid anecdotal evidence. As much as possible, try to use hard data. Numbers, ratios of new/existing, number of comments, time it started/ended.
4. Talk improvements, not mistakes. There’s a fine line there, but it’s a heart issue.