Monday, June 24, 2019

Does Your Church Board Track Outreach as Carefully as You Track Finances?

By Warren Bird, Ph.D.

Which is more important to God’s mission for your church: sharing the good news about Jesus, or managing church finances well? Hopefully doing the second option leads to doing more of the first-- but at your church board meetings, which goal gets more time and attention?

We’ve all heard phrases like “what you measure improves,” and “expect more of what you inspect,” and even “what you celebrate, you’ll get more of.” So, in our recent survey of church boards, we asked about three goal-setting topics. This is what we learned:

In other words, slightly more attention is fixed on setting goals for finances than on setting goals for growth and outreach.

Who is the exception? What kinds of churches (or under what circumstances) do we see greater focus placed on goals for growth and evangelism? I looked at 16 different variables and, sadly, none were the exception where setting/reviewing goals for “growth issues” surpassed setting/reviewing goals for “financial health/sustainability.”  

(1) Church size didn’t matter, nor did (2) board size.  Nor did the (3) senior pastor’s age, (4) length of time the senior pastor has served at that church, or (5) whether the pastor is the founding pastor. Nor did the (6) age of the church or (7) whether it’s multisite. Nor did the (8) perspective of the survey taker (i.e., senior pastors, board chairs, and board members all had the same perceptions). Nor the (9) size of the board, (10) how the board is selected, or (11) whether the board goes on an annual planning retreat, nor even if the board does an (12) annual performance review of itself or (13) of the senior pastor. Nor whether the board (14) considers itself highly effective or (15) feels it’s very clear on its roles and responsibilities.

My biggest surprise is that (16) growing churches didn’t register differently in how often they reviewed or set goals for growth. Whew!

There are a lot of “maybes” that could explain why the frequency of financial goal setting exceeds that of growth issues. For example; maybe financial issues change more frequently, and thus merit closer attention, whereas outreach is steadier and more consistent. Maybe you can think of other “maybes.”

What about YOUR church? Let us know your thoughts at