For this month’s Sunday| Mag articles, we asked some of our favorite writers this one question: What’s one thing you’ve been learning all year long that you’d like to share with Sunday| Mag’s readers? In this article, Justin Wise talks about measuring the effectiveness of your church and of your social media/communication efforts.

Galileo is quoted as saying, “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.” Measurement, folks. This is my one thing.

When it comes to a church’s “measurement”, it’s easy to get intimidated by measuring up. Metrics related to life-change, spiritual growth, and transformation are sticky, to say the least.

However, this does not mean it cannot be done. In fact, churches need to be even more concerned about quantifying their results. Why? Because the “output” of churches is the most precious commodity on the planet: changed lives.

Churches need to be even more concerned about quantifying their results.

The same holds true for social media metrics. Most of us don’t go around thinking about how to quantify the results of our last Facebook ad campaign. (Heck, most of us aren’t quite sure where to even start with Facebook ads.)

With social media, it’s easy to use terms like engagement, reach, and amplification to describe the results of our efforts. While there’s nothing wrong with these terms, they miss the point. They don’t give us the full picture. They are lazy metrics given by people who do not understand how to connect digital content to measurable outputs.

This has been an intense area of focus for me. I dream of increasing the digital literacy of local churches. It all started two years ago. I had the opportunity to write a book focused on helping churches tackle the “why to” of social media. See, there were plenty of amazing resources showing church leaders “how to” (ie tactics) to use social media, but none of them focused on the “why to” (ie strategy).

When I say “why to”, I want to help answer the question: why is social media so important for local churches?

Simply put, I saw many churches putting the cart before the social media horse. They put tactics before strategy. They dove into creating content without knowing what they wanted to accomplish.

Having been a pastor for years, I knew the importance of connecting ministry activity to ministry goals. Usually ministry goals center around three main areas: attendance, engagement, and generosity. You want to have something to shoot for in each area.

Your social media activity is not exempt from goals. Or rather, it is not exempt from helping your church accomplish its goals. When churches do not understand how to connect the dots between goals and content, fuzzy metrics like the jargon-y terms we were talking about before rear their ugly heads (engagement, reach, amplification, etc.).

Your social media activity is not exempt from goals.

My one thing is helping churches get the strategic “above-the-neck” social media thinking they needed to make their “below-the-neck” tactics 10, 100, or even 1,000 times more effective.

My one thing is to increase digital literacy in local churches.

Think of it this way: would a contractor build a house without blueprints? Not if he wants to stay in business! Would a pilot take off without first knowing the destination? The answer, of course, is “no.” We cannot create effective social media content without first knowing what we want it to accomplish.

We cannot create effective social media content without first knowing what we want it to accomplish.

If you’re not doing this, or not sure how to do it, do not fret. You are in good company. Many of us are just figuring this out, so you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started, either.

My suggestion: start small. Build a progression for your online content. If someone follows you on Twitter, what’s the next step? A mailing list is a great follow-up destination.

Once they join your list, what’s after that? Opening an email? Clicking a link? Replying to a question in your email? Name it. Write it down on paper. Measure it. Tweak until you meet your goal.

While we may not be able to measure “reclaimed hearts” and “regenerated spirits”, we can measure key objectives like church attendance, small group participation, and giving per attendee. They don’t tell us the whole story, but they give us a glimpse. Drawing lines between social media content and church objectives is mission critical. Are you ready?

Drawing lines between social media content and church objectives is mission critical.

Just because no one is doing it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.