The Art of Setting Vision Indicators for Church Growth

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 230

Imagine you’re on a flight across the ocean. You’re moving, sure, but are you headed in the right direction? Are you making good time, or are you just meandering along, possibly even circling back on yourself? This is the dilemma many church leaders face. Are you in a passenger seat with everyone else, not knowing where you are, the direction of travel, or the speed, or are you in the pilot seat with gauges in front of you providing all the necessary information to make good decisions?

When you’re in an airplane, cruising tens of thousands of feet above the ground, you have no gut feeling to tell you if you’re zooming along at 500 miles per hour or if you’ve hit a headwind. But the pilot isn’t up there guessing; they have a dashboard full of gauges and instruments telling them exactly what’s happening. And just like that, in a church setting, while the congregation might not always sense the pace of progress towards the church’s vision, the leadership can set up their own “dashboard” of vision indicators. These are specific, measurable goals that shed light on how well the church is advancing toward its vision.

Creating this dashboard is crucial. It’s like having a set of navigational instruments for church leaders, offering a real-time snapshot of where the church stands on its journey. By pinpointing the right set of vision indicators, leaders can shift from guessing to knowing, steering the church more effectively toward its mission. Think of it as the difference between flying blind and flying with a flight plan and a clear set of metrics to guide you. This shift not only brings clarity and direction but also infuses the journey with purpose and strategic focus.

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Understanding Vision Indicators

So, you’ve got your church’s mission and vision all lined up—great start! But how do you know if you’re actually making any headway towards these lofty goals? That’s where vision indicators come into play. They are the GPS that helps you see where you’ve been and how far you have to go. They’re not just about celebrating the big wins (though that’s important too); it’s also about recognizing the small steps of progress along the way.

Vision indicators are essentially the metrics and goals that you keep an eye on to gauge how well your church is moving toward its mission and vision. Are more people engaging with your church? Are small groups growing? Are we developing leaders? Is your community outreach making an impact? These are the kinds of questions your vision indicators can help answer.

But it’s not just about picking any old metrics and calling it a day. The trick is to choose indicators that are genuinely aligned with your church’s mission and vision. It’s about finding the right balance between ambition and realism—setting goals that stretch your church but are still achievable. This keeps everyone on their toes, aiming for targets that will genuinely propel your church forward, making sure every step taken is a step closer to where you want to be.

Measuring Outputs vs. Inputs

When we talk about vision indicators, it’s crucial to understand the difference between output-oriented measures and input-oriented measures. This is kind of like comparing the fuel you put in your car (input) to the miles you actually drive (output). Input measures, like how many people show up on a Sunday, are definitely important. They give you a sense of scale and resources at your disposal. But if we stop there, we’re only getting half the story. We know how much fuel we’ve got but not how far we’re going with it. Measuring our miles per gallon is what may tell us if we have engine problems, making our fuel burn less efficiently, resulting in fewer miles per tank.

Output-oriented measures, on the other hand, tell us about the effectiveness of our efforts. For instance, the percentage of first-time visitors who take the next step to attend a newcomer event isn’t just a number—it’s a sign of engagement and interest. It tells us more about the journey people are on with our church rather than just the fact that they showed up. Focusing on outputs helps us understand not just the quantity of what we’re doing but the quality of our impact. Are we really making disciples, or are we just gathering crowds?

The shift towards output-oriented evaluation is a game-changer. It nudges us to think more deeply about the outcomes of our ministries and programs. Are we creating meaningful connections? Is our teaching leading to life transformation? By prioritizing outputs, we’re essentially saying that the success of our church isn’t just about being busy or filling seats; it’s about moving hearts and changing lives. This perspective ensures our strategies are not just about growth in numbers but growth in depth and spiritual maturity.

Developing Effective Vision Indicators

Developing effective vision indicators is like creating a tailored navigation system for your church’s journey toward its mission and vision. This process involves pinpointing the right metrics that accurately reflect progress, ensuring they’re not just numbers on a page but meaningful waypoints guiding the way.

First off, the selection of vision indicators should follow a clear path through each step of your discipleship pathway. This means identifying specific, measurable outcomes for every key stage of your church’s discipleship journey. Whether it’s welcoming newcomers, deepening worship experiences, or fostering community engagement, each step needs a corresponding indicator that’s rooted in action and outcome rather than mere participation. For instance, instead of merely tracking how many people attend a service (an input), you might measure how many attendees take the next step to join a small group or serve (an output). This shift emphasizes the effectiveness of your church in guiding congregants toward deeper involvement and spiritual growth.

The beauty of focusing on outputs is in their capacity to reveal the true impact of your ministries. It’s not just about how many seeds you plant; it’s about how many trees grow. This mindset encourages a church to aim for transformational goals—those that reflect a real change in people’s lives and the community at large.

When choosing these indicators, there are three golden rules to follow: They must be easily trackable, ensuring you can consistently and accurately monitor progress without undue burden. They should be output-oriented, focusing on the results of your efforts rather than the efforts themselves. Critically, they need to align with your church’s overarching vision, ensuring that every measure you track is a step toward the future you envision.

This process is not about setting arbitrary targets but about defining a set of vision indicators that genuinely reflect your church’s strategic objectives and spiritual aspirations. By adhering to these principles, you create a dashboard that not only tracks progress but also inspires and directs strategic action, keeping your church’s journey toward its vision clear, focused, and purposeful.

Example Vision Indicators

Let’s dive into some practical examples of vision indicators and unpack why they’re so effective. Remember, the best vision indicators are those that track progress are easily measurable, and align closely with both the church’s vision and the steps in the discipleship pathway.

Percentage of Newcomers Attending a Follow-up Event: This measure goes beyond just counting how many people showed up on Sunday. It looks at how many of those were newcomers and then, more importantly, how many of those took the next step to attend a follow-up event. This is a powerful indicator of how effective your church is at engaging new visitors and encouraging their journey into deeper community involvement.

Ratio of Congregation Engaged in Small Groups: Instead of merely noting overall attendance, measuring the percentage of your congregation that participates in small groups gives a clearer picture of community and discipleship depth. This indicator reflects not just growth in numbers but growth in relationships and spiritual maturity, key components of a thriving church community. This assumes that the small groups ministry has been carefully designed to foster those outcomes.

Number of Volunteer Hours Served in Community Outreach: While tracking the number of outreach events held is useful, a more impactful measure is the total volunteer hours served in the community. This output-oriented metric demonstrates the congregation’s active participation in serving and impacting the community, showcasing the church’s outward focus and mission fulfillment.

Conversion and Baptism Rates: Although counting baptisms is an input measure when used to calculate the rate of conversions in relation to overall attendance or newcomer visits, it becomes an insightful output measure. It can reveal the effectiveness of evangelism efforts and the spiritual growth journey of individuals within the church.

Growth in Giving Towards Missional Objectives: Rather than just tracking total giving, monitoring growth in contributions directed specifically towards missional objectives (like outreach programs, missionary support, etc.) can highlight a congregation’s growing commitment to the church’s vision. This financial engagement is a tangible expression of prioritizing the church’s mission in the lives of its members.

These examples underscore the importance of choosing vision indicators that are not only measurable but meaningful. They should illuminate the effectiveness of the church’s efforts to move people toward deeper engagement, discipleship, and mission fulfillment. By focusing on these kinds of output-oriented measures, church leaders can ensure their strategies are genuinely driving the congregation toward its envisioned future.

Implementing Vision Indicators

Implementing vision indicators within your church’s planning and evaluation processes can feel a bit like setting up a new workout routine. Initially, it might seem like a lot of effort with all the tracking and adjusting, but once it’s part of your routine, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. Here’s how to make vision indicators a seamless part of your church’s life:

Regularly Update Action Plans: Just as your fitness goals evolve as you get stronger, your action plans for your church’s vision indicators should also adapt over time. The team leader plays a crucial role here, ensuring the action plan is updated each month to reflect progress or pivot strategies as needed. This dynamic approach allows your church to respond to new challenges and opportunities as they arise, ensuring your vision remains a living, breathing part of your church’s journey​​.

Embrace Flexibility and Adjustment: Flexibility is key. Just as with any long-term goal, obstacles and unexpected turns are part of the process. If your church isn’t on pace to reach its goals, it’s time to reevaluate and adjust your strategy objectives. This might mean shifting focus, resources, or even redefining certain indicators to better align with your church’s vision and capabilities.

Celebrate and Motivate: Don’t forget to celebrate the milestones, no matter how small. Recognizing accomplishments not only boosts morale but also reinforces the significance of the vision indicators. Celebrations can be as simple as acknowledging a team’s hard work in a service, sharing success stories through your church’s communication channels, or even a small gathering to thank volunteers and staff for their dedication.

By integrating these strategies into your church’s planning and evaluation processes, vision indicators become more than just metrics; they transform into powerful tools for guidance, motivation, and celebration of your church’s journey toward its God-given vision.


Remember, the journey toward a church’s vision is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires patience, perseverance, and a willingness to adjust as you learn and grow. Vision indicators are not just tools for measurement; they are catalysts for transformation. They challenge us to look beyond the immediate, celebrate progress, address challenges head-on, and continuously align our actions with our aspirations.

As you set out to implement or refine your vision indicators, do so with the understanding that you are monitoring your church’s journey into its future. Let these indicators be a source of inspiration, guiding your congregation toward greater engagement, deeper discipleship, and a more profound impact on the community and the world.

The path to realizing your church’s vision is both challenging and rewarding. By diligently applying the strategies outlined, regularly reviewing and adjusting your vision indicators, and rallying your church around these shared goals, you’ll not only navigate the journey more effectively but also inspire those around you to invest themselves fully in the mission. Together, step by purposeful step, you’ll move closer to the vision God has placed before you, transforming lives and making an indelible impact on the world in His name.

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A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.

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