What's in this session?

  • Ep. #144 (1:05)
  • Every church mission statement (1:55)
  • Next steps (2:18)
  • Step #1: Audit (5:04)
  • Step #2: Assign value (5:45)
  • Step #3: Set your baseline (6:47)
  • Step #4: Work to improve (7:49)
  • Nucleus (9:37)

Show notes and resources

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet – a ready-to-go spreadsheet calculator for accurately tracking & measuring church growth

The Transcript

Brady Shear: Hey, we just launched a free, brand-new resource for churches called the Nucleus Playbook. You can find it at playbook.church. And within the Nucleus Playbook, you’re gonna find a number of different step-by-step strategies for increasing next steps at your church. We think that next steps are the absolute best way to measure and improve church growth and church health, and so within the Nucleus Playbook you’ll find plays like the “new visitor freebie followup” or the “two-part church announcements formula” or the “instant prayer request system” and a ton of others, all geared to improving and increasing next steps at your church. Again, it’s 100% free. We poured more than 200 hours into this resource. You can access it by going to www.playbook.church.

Alex Mills: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in ten minutes or less you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we try to navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by the boss man. It’s Brady Shear. Today we’re talking about why next steps are the best metric for tracking church growth.

Brady Shear: In episode 144 of Pro Church Daily, Alex, we talked about why attendance is not the be-all and end-all metric for tracking church growth and overall church health. We get so obsessed with the numbers. We’re at 100 and we had 110 now, but we don’t think that that’s the best metric for tracking church growth. To find the best metric, we first need to figure out why are we doing what we do as churches? We probably wouldn’t say this, but I think we demonstrate it with our actions. As long as we can get more people in our building on a Sunday morning, if there’s more people there, that means we are succeeding and accomplishing our mission and vision. I think this is shortsighted because at the end of the day, every one of our churches is doing and trying to follow the Great Commission and the greatest commandments. Jesus’ words for himself summed up in three things. We’re trying to help people love God, love others, and make disciples. And each of these stances begins with a verb: love, love, make. And you can’t do any of these things passively. You need to be taking action to love God, you need to be taking action to love others, and you need to be taking action definitely to make disciples.

So we think the most important, valuable metric to track, best indicator for church growth and overall health, is next steps. These two words: next steps. Because that really is what we’re trying to accomplish as churches. We want a church full of active participants, not passive spectators that just sit in the pews, take up space, they come every other week, maybe every other third week. They come in, they come out. Is that even helpful at all? No, and it’s not an indicator of us fulfilling our purpose as churches.

Here’s what’s really interesting, because I love attendance as much as the next guy. Who doesn’t want their church to go from 100 to 200 this year?

Alex Mills: One service to two services.

Brady Shear: Come on. What we found, though, and other churches found again and again, is that more engagement, so more next steps, more action, is actually the prerequisite, the indicator that attendance will actually improve. Carey Nieuwhof is the pastor of a well-known church in Canada, Connexus Church, and he said this. “At our church, I find our most engaged people, the people who serve, who give, who invite, who are in a small group … said otherwise, or said in another way, people who are taking next steps are our most frequent attenders. Therein, if you can get more people taking next steps, you get more attendance.”

Alex Mills: And that makes sense.

Brady Shear: It does make sense. In episode 141 we talked with Pastor [EJ 00:03:33]. We talked about his church in rural Kentucky of just about 100 people had grown 42% in six months, and he said this. “Look, as cliché as it might sound, we’ve really pushed community, belonging, and being involved: being the church as opposed to just being at church.” Taking next steps. And that’s translated as more attendance. So again, if you can just focus on next steps and focus on that more than anything, more next steps, more next steps, more next steps. If that’s the number one thing that you’re obsessed with at your church, that’s gonna lead to more people loving God, loving others, and making disciples. And for all of us that love chasing numbers and there’s nothing wrong with that, more attendance as well.

Alex Mills: This sounds like all good news.

Brady Shear: It is all good news, and I think it’s important because we’re living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years and it used to be that attending church was a much bigger deal than it is now. And that can get scary. We’re like, “Not as many people are attending church. The Sunday service isn’t as sacred as it once was.” But if you can just disconnect the reason your church exists from attendance on a Sunday, and if you can unhinge those from each other, now you’re actually so much more freed up to accomplish more of the mission and more of the purpose for our church’s existence in the first place.

Alex Mills: And you’ll see more people at your church on Sundays in the wake of it, like you said.

Brady Shear: It’s a win-win-win.

Let’s talk about the three … or pardon me, the four steps needed to begin tracking next steps, because it’s really easy to count the number of people in church on a Sunday.

Alex Mills: Just about the easiest thing you can do.

Brady Shear: It’s a little bit tedious, but it’s not difficult. It’s very easy. How do we track next steps?

Step number one is to audit every event, ministry, and church operation and create a master list of every possible next step within your church. Now, this doesn’t have to be an exact science. It’s the 80-20 rule in operation here. If you can just get pretty well, you’re in a good spot. So what type of next steps could we track? Well, attending an event or a service, that would be one next step. Volunteering at an event or service, giving, submitting a prayer request, connect card being returned, event signups, ministry, registrations. Again, just create a master list of every possible next step that could be taken within your church. And this is unique to your church, so you gotta do this yourself.

Then the second step is assigning a value, a number value, to each of these things. Because not every next step is made equal. Like, for instance, maybe attending a church service gets a one, but serving, volunteering at a church service, gets a five. Because we know that the number of volunteers in our church are the vast minority of the actual people. And so we put a huge value on serving versus just showing up and attending. So give each one a value. And these don’t have to be set in stone, but again, you’re just trying to get a baseline.

And that is step number three. Once you’ve tracked and audited every single possible next step, and once you’ve assigned a number value to each one of them, you start tracking them, and then what you wanna do is set a baseline for a week and for a month. So say, this week the total next steps volume, the total next steps score that we got, was 285, and that’s a good volume number. And then you can also do that for the month.

And then what you wanna do is assign even more data, because we all know how much I love data and tracking things. Divide that number by “reach,” and there are different ways of quantifying this number. So you could use, for instance, the average attendance, if you wanted, for a month and divide it by the number of weeks in that month. You could also use the total number of people on your church’s email list. You could also do the total number of people in your church management software database. How many contacts do we have within planning center? It’s your choice which one you use. It doesn’t matter what number you get out of this. There’s no good number, there’s no bad number; you just wanna set your baseline, your unique next steps volume, and then also your unique next steps per person.

So let’s say you had 300 next steps, a perfect round number for mass sake on this episode, and your church has 100 people in it. 300 divided by 100, your next step’s volume is three, a nice round number. It’s not gonna be that, it’s gonna be like 2.87, whatever. But for example’s sake, it’s three. Now you have your baseline, and now we get to step four.

What you wanna do is work to improve that number every month. If the number goes up from three to 3.17 from February to March, that’s a definite sign of improved growth and improved church health. And this is a holistic way of looking at your church and assessing, are we fulfilling and accomplishing our purpose? Attendance is one small part of that, but there’s so much more to that. Attendance is just our volume growing, but it doesn’t at all indicate the people that are already in my church growing. Because yeah, I want more people to come, but I also want that person that’s been there for five years to be closer to Jesus and living more like Jesus and doing more to love God, love others, and make disciples at the end of this year than at the beginning of this year. Otherwise they’re just sitting in a pew and not taking action. They are a passive spectator, and I don’t want that.

Alex Mills: Yeah, and we recognize that this may take some renewing of the mind if you will, because a lot of us, even the best of us who think we don’t care all that much about church attendance, subconsciously we do really put a lot of weight on it, a lot of thought towards it. And so this will take some kind of rethinking, retooling about the way we think about things, and the things that we actually value as far as our church is concerned and how people are interacting with our church. But if we can shift philosophies and really prioritize I’m tracking these next steps, we’re gonna see, like you said, I love the word you used. This is like a holistic approach to church growth and church health. We’re gonna see our church grow maybe in numbers, probably in numbers, but most importantly in personal health, spiritual health, spiritual condition of the people who do come to our church. And yeah, we’ll see a return on investment. We’ll probably see more people come to church, and that’s great. We celebrate that. But we wanna see the people who are in our church grow.

Brady Shear: Yeah. It’s at both ends. And this is why Nucleus, our church website builder, exists. This is why we made it. I took this fateful flight to Atlanta and I was like, how can we get people taking more action, more next steps, within our churches? And so we created this brand new type of church website builder. Most church websites are basically digital yellow page listings, which has been very good and useful up until this point. Information that’s relevant to our church, but no real way to take action. And for those that are already a part of Nucleus, you know this. And if you ever join Nucleus, when you join Nucleus you become partners with us. And the second that happens, we become obsessed with one single thing at your church: more next steps. The success and failure of Nucleus for me and for our entire team rides on that single metric. When you join Nucleus, in six months, in a year, I want you to come back and say to us, “Yeah, we’ve got more next steps.”

When Jason came back to us, a lead pastor, and said, “Yeah, there’s 53% more engagement at our church since we switched to Nucleus,” success. When Adam came back to us and said, “Our engagement’s up and our next steps are up 20% this year since last year,” success. When Devin came to us and said, “Our giving is up 105% since last year,” and he credited Nucleus as a part in that role, I said, “Great, that’s success.” More next steps, more next steps, more next steps.

And this is why I think we need to do more of this with our digital tools and our strategies, not just our website is very pretty. Which is fine. Or not just, “I impressed my pastor with this website class.” That’s great too. But does it at all help fulfill your church’s mission? Does it at all help accomplish the reason your church exists? And that’s where digital needs to get to.

That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with Nucleus, and we also just launched this really cool thing. It’s called the Nucleus Playbook. We have been working … I think this took maybe more than 200 hours to build, and I poured my heart and soul into this. So did our designers. So did our developers. So did our video editors. You can find it at playbook.church, and this isn’t about more next steps; it’s about better next steps. Because there’s two parts of this. You want more in volume, but you also want it to be easier and more fulfilling when you take a next step. So just a couple next steps strategies, that’s what the Nucleus Playbook is, step by step strategies for accomplishing next steps in your church. It’s 100% free for every single person. Playbook.church. You’ll need to be a user of Nucleus. A couple of plays that you’ll find on there, the “new visitor freebie followup,” the “ultimate free church connect card template,” the “super church lobby kiosk setup.” These are all ways of leveraging digital tools for next steps with exact setups, walkthroughs, 20 minute videos, 100% free, playbook.church. Let’s transition from using attendance as that metric for church growth and church health. It is incomplete. It is lacking. We need a more wholistic approach. Next steps is the way to do that.

Alex Mills: So good.

Brady Shear: This is a game changer, I think.

Alex Mills: Yeah, it really is.

Brady Shear: I’m excited for this. That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. Leave your comments below. Let’s engage and talk about this, and we’ll see you next time on Pro Church Daily.

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