You have been called to make disciples. How do you know people are actually becoming healthy disciples? How do you know that all the hard work of the church is producing fruit? Two of the easiest ways is to measure attendance and giving. However, these are very incomplete metrics in and of themselves.
That has led many church leaders to look at another metric: volunteer service hours. I have been asked several times over the past few months how a church can most effectively do this using technology. As with any technology related solution, it is necessary to look at the desired end result.
Only after getting clear on the goal can we begin looking at how to do the tracking and measuring.
Making disciples is the most challenging function of the church. Measuring the health of an individual's overall life as a disciple is equally challenging.
At least once a year, churches provide members with a statement of contributions. This statement traditionally is based solely on financial contributions to the church. Church management systems (ChMS) generally provide good tools to do this efficiently.
Several years ago I was on staff at a church where we wanted to take the statement of contributions to the next level, so we tried to include attendance data on it as well as financial contributions. Since our ChMS did not provide a way for us to do this, we had to get creative. In the end we stopped doing this because the cost of producing this comprehensive statement was too high. But the reason we tried in the first place was because the church's goal was to develop fully devoted followers of Christ, and the only assessment/feedback we could provide was linked to financial giving.
So this brings us to the first question which we will focus on for this first part of the series:
This scenario is focused solely on telling inspiring stories of “serve and affect”: 1) how the servants were affected and their lives changed by serving, and 2) how those on the receiving end of the service were changed and affected.
This scenario focused on seeing the magnitude of the service of the whole Church Body. Instead of telling individual stories of change, this looks at the magnitude of the corporate services.
The goal here is to produce a list such as: “This past year our church…
So these hours of service are tracked, or at least reported, as a church and not as an individual.
This scenario is a part of a bigger picture by looking at the overall discipleship health of the individual person. This would require tracking more than just volunteer serving hours and financial contributions. This can be the most difficult of the scenarios for which to implement a solution. This is meant more for the growth of individuals.[Tweet “However, the healthier each individual is, the healthier the church body will be.”]
Some businesses have programs where they will provide a financial contribution in the name of an employee to that employee's charity of choice. The employee has to enroll in her/his company's program. Each company manages these programs a little differently. Basically, when the employee performs hours of service for the charity, the company will send a certain amount of money to that charity for each hour the employee volunteered. Some companies are more strict on how these volunteer hours are tracked.
Maybe these all sound good. It is possible to design a solution that will address any combination or all of these scenarios.
Each of these scenarios has merit. Before looking at a technology solution it is extremely important to answer the “why” question. If you jump in with a solution that focuses simply on the more overall body and not the individuals, you most likely will not be able to then get data at the individual level. As one of my coworkers eloquently puts it, “You cannot unscramble the eggs once they are cooked.” If you know the data at the individual level, it can be summarized up to the church body level. However, tracking data at the individual level can be more time consuming and costly. So knowing how you will need to use the data helps determine what solution you need to implement and how much time and money needs to be invested to set it up. It all comes down to how you need to see the data on the other end as to what system is implemented.
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Do these questions cover every scenario? What other reasons does your church have for tracking service hours? Share your answers in the comments below.
Steve's passion is to help ministers and churches do ministry in our new digital, social, mobile world at the speed of life through building a strong ministry infrastructure (minfrasTructure). With a background in church administration, Christian education, missions, and technology, he offers advice, tips, and tools through writing, blogging, speaking, online courses, consulting, and personal coaching.
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