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Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a Parish Council Dashboard

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Key Performance Indicators for Effective Parish Ministry

How does your parish know if it is fulfilling its mission? Do you view annual membership growth as an indicator of ministry and program effectiveness? Do you look at annual revenues as an indicator that the parish is growing? Does your parish set quantifiable and strategic goals for itself? How does a parish track their progress towards their goals for the week, month, quarter and year? For most Orthodox priests and parishes, only a couple of blunt indicators are used as KPIs – is the church full or not? Did we meet our budget or not? How many stewardship pledging families do we have? But what of the underlying driving factors that are affecting where the parish is headed?

Of course, prayerful discernment must permeate the entire process. How does our ministry and how do our programs represent gospel teaching, sacramental realism and salvation through synergistic deification? What is God’s will for us? This is the prayerful art of parish management, if you will, KPIs represent the lesser though critically important role of the science or professional methodology of parish management and mission fulfillment.

In addition to offering useful information on how the parish is historically and presently performing, KPIs offer another very useful purpose. They provide essential information that allows knowledge-based decision making at the highest levels of policy formulation and envisioning – quiet moments in the priest’s office, parish council deliberations, strategic planning committee research and important general assembly motions. What are all too often the alternatives to knowledge-based and mission-based decision making? Personal preference (often biased), vested interests and force of personality – not the best tools in the shed for determining the future of the parish.

The first step in developing good KPIs for a parish is to determine key goals and objectives. Remember, unless something is measured, it is difficult to improve it. One parish admirably decided to wean itself from festival income being utilized for parish operations. They wanted to become completely funded through stewardship giving and utilize all festival income for charity work. It would be important, therefore, to track progress toward this goal. Another parish might retain a full time youth ministry worker. KPIs might be developed to measure effectiveness of this person’s work in terms of attendance, activity and events.

KPIs are widely utilized by corporations and nonprofits. They are commonly formulated in a way that is understandable, meaningful, and measurable. KPIs should also follow what is termed S.M.A.R.T.E.R methodology:

  • Specific purpose

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • defined Time period

  • Evaluated

  • Reevaluated

By this time many priests may wonder what fantasy cloud this document seeped out of. Who has the time and the staff to chart KPIs? I’m overwhelmed by pastoral and managerial task search and every day. Take heart, there are various levels of information tracking. The main thing is to begin to measure performance where it is reasonable to measure performance and to utilize the information to improve parish performance.

This item in the Stewardship Advocates Library also includes a PDF sample of one parish’s exemplary effort to track KPIs. Yes, they have several priests and a handful of office staff but it does demonstrate what is possible for some parishes. And perhaps what would be possible for many more parishes if we were not so severely understaffed nationally. The old model of one priest and one part-time or even fulltime secretary must be challenged. Far too many of our parishes function solely as sacrament factories and funeral purveyors practicing triage each and every day. But that’s another story.

Here are samples of KPIs for parish ministry and financial activity:

Membership: upside – adult chrismations, baptisms, replants from other parishes; downside– deaths, departures from the faith, families moving out of the community

Attendance: Sunday liturgy, adult education classes, Sunday school, youth ministry participation, retreats, parish council meetings, etc.

Public service to the poor and needy: number of activities, number of people served, and number of volunteers involved

Pastoral ministry: number of people and number of visits in hospitals, shut-ins, counseling, marriage preparation, etc.

Financial: there are many indicators to select from in this category and in many ways they are the easiest to track because they are quantified by the financial secretary

Developing and keeping track of KPI’s may seem like an arduous task but there are several church management systems on the market that are designed to assist ministries in managing KPIs and building a parish council information dashboard.

In addition to numerically quantifying activity it is recommended that every three years or so a parish undertake an all community Internet-based and paper-based survey soliciting the evaluative comments of parishioners. Track these over a period of time and additional trends will be revealed, as well as commentary on present programs and ministries.


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