The Paradox of Statistical Reporting

mario

by Mario Vega

We’ve talked extensively this month on the need for statistics to be accurate, updated, and applied to cell life in order for cell ministry to function properly. The statistics should become more and more efficient as the reporting system improves. But at the same time, it’s possible for statistics to become so important that they replace reality. That is, people who monitor the statistics can rely so much on good statistics that they end up putting the reports ahead of what is actually occurring.

When this happens, goals, projections, evaluations and other key aspects of the work will take place based on paper and ink but not on the true reality itself. Statistics will then become a barrier to getting at the real situation. This is the statistic’s paradox.

We must strive to ever improve in the area of reporting and statistics, but at the same time we need to be aware that it’s only a tool. We must not allow the tool to move us away from reality. Rather, we should allow the statistics to bring us closer to what’s actually happen. .

To avoid this paradox, those who supervize the cell work must always be in continuous contact with the real work of the cells and must permanently relate with the life of the cells. They must continually seek to connect statistics with reality. Only then the statistics will not lose their true benefit.

Comments?

Mario

Translation in Spanish

La paradoja de las estadísticas.

Se ha dicho que las estadísticas deben ser actualizadas, exactas y recoger la información suficiente como para monitorear adecuadamente el trabajo. En la medida que las estadísticas son mejores, se convierten en una herramienta más eficiente para nuevos alcances.

Pero, al mismo tiempo, se puede producir el problema de que las estadísticas llegan a ser tan completas que pueden llegar a sustituir a la realidad. Es decir, las personas que monitorean pueden confiarse tanto de las buenas estadísticas que terminan sustituyendo la realidad misma por los reportes.

A partir de allí, las metas, proyecciones, evaluaciones y los aspectos principales del trabajo se harán sobre la base de una realidad de papel y tinta; pero no la auténtica realidad. En tal caso, las estadísticas se convierten en una barrera para accesar a la realidad.

Esa es la paradoja de las estadísticas. Debemos esforzarnos por tener estadísticas cada vez más eficientes, pero al mismo tiempo se esta construyendo un instrumento que puede alejarnos de la realidad en lugar de acercarnos.

Para evitar tal paradoja, quienes monitorean, deben estar siempre en continuo contacto con la realidad. Deben estar inmersos en el trabajo real de las casas. Deben relacionarse permanentemente con la vida de las células y confrontar constantemente la realidad con las estadísticas. Solamente así las estadísticas no perderán su verdadera utilidad.

Relationships are the Bottom Line

By Michael Sove

We have been talking all month about reports and statistics and how they can help in measuring growth, health and potential of your cell / holistic group system.  I stress a point I made earlier, simple is better.  I gain the greatest insight about what is going on through the on-going relationships with my leaders and coaches and visits to see them in action.

Last night I visited a cell and I learned more by participation and observation than I would have by simply looking at a written report.  I also got to meet two new people who were attending the cell.  Sure their names will show up on the report the office will receive today.  But now I know who they are and gained insight into who they are as a person and a little about their story.  I learned much as I observed them and the rest of the group members throughout the evening.  Now when I meet with this cell leader for my monthly one-on-one time together, the list of names comes alive and I can help him see the potential in the people who surround him week after week.

During a one-on-one time last Saturday with one of my coaches I learned invaluable information about two other cell groups.  Sure, I could look at the report from the cell leader he is coaching and see the names of those who are attending but what I learned through the face to face communication with this coach was that a relatively new member of that cell led the Word time in the gathering and did fantastic as a facilitator.  I was able to approach this person and determine interest in being equipped to become a cell leader.  I will work in conjunction with this coach and leader to see that this happens.

This same coach told me about the struggles of another cell and how they have not been able to establish a regular meeting place.  Looking at the report I would have seen that they met in various locations but I would not have know about their desire to move south and establish a more stable place to meet.  Because of my relationship with this coach I gained the needed insight to understand what was going on and now the coach and I can encourage the leader to make the necessary move.

Reports and statistics are important but it is in relationships  where everything comes to life.  Relate to your coaches and leaders and hang out with them and you will learn so much more than sitting in an office looking at a chart.  Relationships are the bottom line to effective use of reports and statistics.

Comments?

Michael

Reporting Dangers

JEFFby Jeff Tunnell

I LIKE STATISTICS and charts and graphs and tables of performance. In my case, details, diagrams and good reports make for happy days.

Does DANGER exist in collecting statistical data? Of course, such as putting numbers ahead of people becomes an easy error. Losing focus on the heart of the matter (bringing people to Jesus and maturity in living for Him) can occur if you sit behind a desk and pour over numbers only.

My cell leaders have accused me of caring more about goals and numbers than the “really important things”. This tells me that I don’t need to talk about the statistics with everyone, or all of the time. Discovering how to utilize statistics, which ones to put on display and which to keep private, is necessary.

A greater danger is in NOT gathering and utilizing readily collectible data. When you are bound to goals that lead to specific measureable outcomes, you will need bencmarks along the route. Sailing = charts & maps. Driving = maps & mileage. Growing cells = names, attendance, equipping progress for those individuals & dates for expected multiplication of new cell leaders are a few basic data sets.

I am interested in your observations & comments on this important topic!

Jeff

Pitfalls of Cell Reporting

JOELby Joel Comiskey

JCG blogging this month highlighted the importance of keeping accurate cell statistics. Church leaders need to know what’s happening in the cell groups and accurate cell reporting helps them to better “know the state of the flock.” Yet even if a church keeps accurate statistics, certain pitfalls can still occur. Here are two of them:

1. Depending too much on the numbers and not enough on human interaction. Statistics can’t tell everything. They can reveal how many met, prayer requests, salvations, who is being trained, etc. However, they don’t uncover whether the leader is battling with sin, discouragement, or is going to be moving out of town next month. They don’t diagnose the health of the group and whether it’s ready for multiplication.

To know these things, human, supervisory interaction is required. Cell coaching makes or breaks cell ministry. Statistics can help in the coaching process, but they can’t replace it. A leadership team (whether lay-staff or a fulltime pastoral staff) should interact and personally talk about leader “Joe Smith” or “Mary Temple” and make decisions about whether their groups are healthy or unhealthy. It’s possible for a cell church to produce weak, enimic cell groups that die over time based on pure statistics. We all know that uexpected obstacles and setbacks take place in cell ministry. Wise coaches expect these things to occur and rely heavily on the Spirit of God to guide the training and multiplication process–rather than on statistical reports alone.

2. Lack of understanding about the WHY of reporting. Some cell churches don’t adequately communicate to their leaders the reason for cell reporting. Those turning in the weekly reports feel it’s a waste of time and only begrudingly do it, if at all.

During the cell leadership training part of the equipping process, tell the future leader why cell reporting is necessary and expected each week. Talking about the reporting process during the cell leader’s training can break down mental obstacles and help make turning in the report a habit.

Leaders are more motivated to turn in their reports if you can show them how the reports are being used. As Steve Cordle said in a blog this month, If you never mention or refer to the statistics the leader provides, they will assume it makes no difference whether they report or not.

Perhaps you can think of additional pitfalls. Please share them.

Joel

How Elim Collects Cell Statistics

MARIO

by Mario Vega

The collection of statistical data in Elim follows the natural order of the work structure, and it is divided among all its members. Here’s how it works:

  • The leader fills out his or her cell report and gives it to the supervisor.
  • The supervisor prepares a report of the cells in his sector based on the reports he has received from each of the leaders.
  • The supervisor hands in his report to the zone pastor.

The zone pastor is a person already working full time for the church. The zone pastor prepares a report of his zone based on the reports from all his supervisors. Then he delivers his report to the district pastor. The district pastor also prepares a report based on the information given by his zone pastors.

Finally, the district pastors send their statistics to the secretary’s office where the data of the nine districts are added up to create a report of the whole church. This process is carried out every week and is part of the work routine of those involved in the cell work.

At Elim we do not use in any specialized software. We have not found a software program that perfectly meets our precise needs. Thus, the work is done manually up to the level of supervisors, using worksheets, and from there we input the data into our computer system.

Elim is a church with a full working structure and 25 years of experience. Through experience, we’ve found the necessity of having firm data each week. You can adapt the principles that we’ve learned to meet your own needs.

Comments?

Mario

Translation into Spanish:

Recolección de estadísticas

La recolección de los datos estadísticos en Elim sigue el orden natural de la estructura de trabajo y se encuentra dividido entre todos sus integrantes. Veamos, el líder llena el reporte de su célula y lo entrega a su supervisor. El supervisor elabora un reporte de las células de su sector sobre la base de los reportes que ha recibido de cada uno de sus líderes. Luego, el supervisor entrega su reporte al pastor de zona.

El pastor de zona es ya una persona trabajando a tiempo completo para la iglesia. El pastor elabora un reporte de su zona sobre la base de los reportes de todos sus supervisores. Después entrega su reporte a su pastor de distrito. El pastor de distrito elabora, a su vez, un reporte sobre la base de la información que le han dado sus pastores de zona.

Por último, los pastores de distritos envían sus estadísticas a la secretaría donde, sumando los datos de los nueve distritos, se elabora el reporte de toda la iglesia. Este proceso se realiza cada semana y es parte de la rutina de trabajo de los involucrados en la labor celular.

En Elim no utilizamos ninguna aplicación (software) especializada. No hemos encontrado una aplicación que llene cabalmente nuestras necesidades. El trabajo se hace hasta el nivel de supervisores de manera manual. De allí en adelante se hace utilizando hojas electrónicas de cálculo.

Obviamente, Elim es una iglesia con una estructura de trabajo completa y con 25 años de experiencia. Eso permite tener datos firmes cada semana. Pero, algunos principios pueden extraerse y acoplarse a iglesias menos estructuradas.

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Statistically Simply

By Michael Sove

Last week I talked about keeping things simple as far as reports from cell leaders.  Joel and Jeff did a great job the last few days talking about good programs that are available for recording and tracking data to see how you are doing in your ministry to people and where they are in your equipping process.

We are a mid-sized church that has used Excellerate for the last four years.  It has proven very useful for us.  Everything is integrated in this system.  All information on the people you are tracking is in one place.  Whenever we as staff make contacts on people, we put pertinent notes in the system.  The basic reports are adequate and the people at Excellerate are helpful in creating reports specific to your needs.

Regardless of the tool that you use, it will be important to have a consistent way of gathering the information.  We don’t have this integrated with our web page, so our leaders receive an e-mail from our church secretary on the day on which their cell meets.  This e-mail contains the list of the names of those who are in their cell.  All they have to do is place an “x” next to the names of those who were in attendance, and give us the names of new attendees.  The secretary goes in and updates the database.  Every Monday I review the information she has received from the previous week and if we haven’t heard from one of the leaders she contacts them.  Most of the people send it back without hesitation because we have kept it simple.

Once you have the information it is important to use it.  Whenever I meet with a cell leader or a coach I always have their report that shows the last few months of attendance from their cell or network as well as where people are in the discipleship process.  This information is invaluable.

In our weekly staff meetings we focus on some of these reports as well but pay close attention to first time guests and those who are new to our church.  Remember the bottom line is this, “It’s all about people and developing people for the Glory of God” so whatever you do, don’t just gather information to gather information, use the information you gather.

Comments?

Michael

Excellerate

by Jeff Tunnell

We use Excellerate software for entering cell group information and it includes a financial component for tracking donations along with producing end-of-year tax receipts ready for mailing.  The “behind the scenes” platform is Microsoft Access.  The depth of this software has been more than we need most of the time and requires a good working knowledge of data-base software parameters.  The web interface is functional and works well in both directions:  you need to IMPORT the information entered by cell leaders via your website on the internet and after updating data in the office computer, it is necessary to EXPORT the new status of cells back to the website server.  This allows each leader to access current records of their cell online at the church website.  All of this is via password protected access.  Go to www.bigbearchristiancenter.org and pull down the LIGHTHOUSES menu, select LOCATE ONE to see the exported information for some of our cells.

Reports are produced fairly easily and can convert the data into graphs of growth to demonstrate to one cell leader, or the entire body of cells, what is happening in numbers or percentages.  You can review one cell, a district or the whole church quite easily.  Selection criteria for reporting is vast and only limited by data you decide to collect!  If you know how to write SQL you can make this program serve you completely.  Printing color or black & white graphs (at least 14 different kinds in 2D or 3D) is a boon that helps people relate to the data.  Reports are email-able which is helpful for sending requested information to inquiring cell leaders.  Directories can be made for one cell or the whole church and can include photos of individuals or families.

Email is integrated into the program but is rather clumsy.  You can export an email address report for any group that you have pre-selected and paste the records into your own email program also.

This is a Cadillac of programs (or is it Lexus by now?) but you’ll need someone to coach you at first if you are new at database collection and manipulation.  Training from the company is available.  If you are an Excellerate user I would appreciate your additional comments for the good of our readers.  If you feel I have left something out, please add.  If I have not represented the program well enough, please clean up my mess!

Questions?  Comments? (Please)

Cell Reporting Software

JOELby Joel Comiskey

People often ask me to recommend a software program for doing cell reporting more effectively. I first like to remind them:

1. Statistical software for reporting won’t make leaders turn in their reports. This requires persistence and accountability.

2. Find something that is simple and user-friendly rather than complex and cumbersome

3. Use what works for you. In other words, only change if your current system isn’t working.

Here are a few options:

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is easy to use and adequate for most situations. The great thing about Excel is that it’s easy to make print-outs to pass out to everyone on the coaching team. The weakness is data base storage—specifically tracking each member’s name and progress in the training track. After collecting all the individual cell reports, someone has to place the data in an easy to read excel file. Example of collected data below: .

 

Actual Cells that Met Attendance Conversions Goal: new groups Visitors in cells Contact of Leaders
        Acu-mulated. Actual Act. Goal   Personal or Telephone contact Coaching Meeting
Pastor David Sanborn 15 12 79 2 0 15 17 3 7 7
Pastor Earl Clugh 22 15 109 0 0 22 27 7 10 4
Pastor Tom Scott 6 6 40 1 0 6 7 4 2 3
TOTAL 43 33 228 3 1 51 80 20 19 14

Weekly Report of Medium Range Cell Church (report small pastoral team)

 

Cells that Met Attendance Conversions Goal: new groups Visitors in cells Contact of Leaders
      Acu-mulated. Actual Act. Goal   Personal or Telephone contact Coaching Meeting
Jane Campbell 1 5 0 0 1 1 0 1 0
Andy Mack 1 6 0 0 1 2 0 3 0
Jim Johnson 1 10 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
Nancy Correll 1 7 1 0 1 2 4 1 0
Tim Duncan 1 5 0 0 1 1 1 0 0
Kirk Miller 1 12 1 0 1 1 0 0 0
John Jones 1 7 0 0 1 1 0 1 0
TOTAL 7 45 2 0 7 2 6 19 14

Weekly Report of Cell Church Plant (lone pastor with small group leader team)

Excellerate

Excellerate is a data software system that is designed for cell based churches (http://www.msdweb.com/ )Their web site states: “Excellerate was designed with Bethany World Prayer Center, one of the leading cell churches in America, and refined by hundreds of other cell churches around the world, to be a comprehensive, user-friendly solution for churches with small groups.” Excellerate will help you streamline the management and effectiveness of your small group church in all areas including:

  • Small group management, reporting, leader development…
  • Member tracking, counselings, development, follow-up…
  • Classes, Organizations, Contributions, Pledges

The two strong points that stand out:

  1. The ability to track each member’s progress on the training track
  2. The ability to store loads of data about each person.

Churchteams

Churchteams software (www.churchteams.com) is all about simplifying the small group reporting experience. It’s extremely simple to use but powerful in its application. Churchteams software is entirely web-based. That is, the church doesn’t own the software but leases it on a yearly basis. The church places a link on the home website that redirects itself to churchteam’s website. Members, leaders, coaches, and pastors can access the church’s small group information at this website (although members can see less information than those in higher levels of leadership).

I was very impressed by how Churchteams has designed the reporting system. Emails are automatically sent out to the leaders reminding them to fill in their reports. Leaders need to only click ONE link in the email that will sign them in and bring up the report page. If the leader doesn’t fill in the report, the email will be send two days later, etc., until the leader fills in the report.

Churches pay an annual fee to use this software based on the number of church members. I personally like this software and find it adequate for most situations.

Perhaps you’re using another software reporting systen that works for you. Please share it with us.

 

Joel

Why We Require Particular Cell Reports

mario

by Mario Vega

The statistics we manage in Elim are:

• Number of leaders. We don’t count the number of cells but the number of leaders. Cell ministry follows a leadership strategy. The leaders are more decisive than the cells. Therefore, we are interested in knowing how many leaders we have. Multiplication will depend on it.

• Attendance. We ask for a report on both the cell members as well as the visitors. In this way, we know who are the new poeple who are being reached with the gospel.

• Conversions. If evangelism is one of the core purposes of the cell, we can only know if that purpose is being achieved by the reports received.

• Visits. A person receiving Jesus is not enough. He/she must be grafted into the life of the church. Visits during the first weeks after the conversion are vital to affirm that person is strong in the faith, and we want to know that the visit actually occurred.

• Baptism in water. We believe that this is an essential step in sealing the person’s conversion, so we want to know about it.

As you can tell by the type of data we collect, our our main priorities are evangelization and then the consolidation of the new believers. These are not only the aspects that are managed in statistics but they are the ones that we are constantly evaluating. We emphasize their importance by assigning each aspect a percentage weight.

Comments?

Mario

Translation into Spanish:

Las estadísticas y su justificación.

Los datos estadísticos que llevamos en Elim son los siguientes:

• Número de líderes. No contamos el número de células sino de líderes. El trabajo celular sigue una estrategia de liderazgo. Los líderes son más decisivos que las células. Por tanto, nos interesa conocer con cuántos líderes se cuenta. De ello dependerá la multiplicación.

• Asistencia. Tanto de los hermanos miembros del núcleo de la célula como de invitados. Con ello, se sabe la cantidad de personas que están siendo alcanzadas con el evangelio.

• Conversiones. Si un propósito de las células es la evangelización, solo se puede saber si ese propósito se está logrando por medio de este control.

• Visitas. No basta con que una persona reciba a Jesús. Se le debe injertar en la vida de iglesia. Las visitas durante las primeras semanas después de la conversión son vitales para afirmar a esa persona en la fe.

• Bautismos en agua. Este es el paso final con el que se sella una conversión. El bautismo en agua es un paso más allá en la nueva vida de un creyente.

Por el tipo de datos que recogemos es evidente que nuestros grandes prioridades son la evangelización y la consolidación de los nuevos creyentes. No solamente son estos los aspectos que se llevan en estadísticas sino que son también los que se evalúan. Al asignarle a cada uno de estos aspectos un porcentaje de evaluación, se enfatiza su importancia.

Statistics and their justification.

Keep Reporting Simple

By Michael Sove

I have tried many different reports over the years and have come to the conclusion that simple is better.  If you are like the average cell leader, you do not like filling out reports, but some basic reporting is critical for leadership to get the overall picture of how things are going.

There is one thing I ask of all my Life Group (cell) leaders on a weekly basis.  I ask them to give us the names of those who attended their gathering.  Turning in the names is simple, not a lot to ask for from leaders, but it speaks volumes.  Some of the questions that get answered by seeing the names of those in attendance are as follows:

Did the Life Group (cell) meet this week? – This shows us if groups are meeting consistently and how we are doing overall.  If a group is cancelling often this will be a red flag and can be caught and responded to quickly.

How many were in attendance? -  This gives us a feel for whether a group is growing, struggling, or stagnant and gives a sense of the core strength of that group.

Were there new people in attendance?  Since we track first time guests and are trying to connect unconnected people, we can see immediately if connections are being made.

Who is being consistent in attendance?  This can help us spot potential leaders as well as help us see if a person has dropped out of participation in a group.

Once I know how many people are involved in our groups on a weekly basis, we compare the total with total worship attendance to see how we’re doing as far as percentage involved in our Life Groups.  We want that percentage to be going up over time.

Where this all comes together is in the monthly coaching meeting.  I and the other coaches meet each leader for a face to face meeting and it is at that meeting we look at other issues like who is being discipled and where are they in the process.  The basic report of who attended their cell becomes the springboard of many of our coaching follow-up questions.

Keeping the initial week to week reporting from the cell group leaders simple helps streamline the reporting process and is appreciated as well by busy leaders.  Obviously what you ask for may vary based on what you are trying to measure.  I have found simple to be better.  Use the K.I.S.S. principle and keep it statistically simple and you’ll be glad you did.

What works for you?

Michael