By Natalie Aho
Almost every receipt given to you these days has a survey link printed at the bottom. Businesses are so desperate for your feedback, they will waste paper and give away cash in exchange for your opinion.
And yet our churches rarely ask what their “audience” thinks about their “products or services.” Most church staff seldom pause long enough to wonder, “How do people think we are doing?”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you receive feedback if you don’t know why metrics matter. At ABPnews/Herald, I spend a lot of time reading statistics about our audience. I’ve found at least seven reasons to study metrics that relate to congregational needs.
1. Deeper engagement. Feedback of any kind allows you to engage more deeply with your church members. An audience feels respect and trust when its opinion is requested, noted and heard. When action is taken to respond to a need or concern, loyalty is garnered. People are more willing to converse on other topics, attend events and contribute with their time and finances when they feel they are known. And the best way to know them is to ask questions.
2. Clear responses. How do you know that what you are doing is working without feedback? If you spend any amount of time on postcards, flyers or bulletin boards, you need to know if anyone noticed. An evening of valuable activity on Facebook can be measured by responses — with “likes,” comments and shares or by the casual follow-up remark made in the hallway. When your staff invests time producing and printing a newsletter or updating a web page, does anyone read it? Feedback will let you know.
3. It’s missional. Metrics can help move a church to a more missional model. In other words, asking what people need, want to discuss, and are concerned about allows the church to focus on practical programming, missions and services instead of “doing what has always been done.” You can only meet needs when you know what they are.
4. Evaluating Interest. Churches tend to measure whether they are effective based on two things: attendance and dollars. However, you may have a low-attendance event because you had poor publicity or communication about the event itself, instead of a lack of interest. Feedback is key to interpreting interest from both physical presence and giving.
5. Corridor talk. Pay attention to what the crowd is talking about (whether positive or negative) to guide decisions for your church to become more inclusive, welcoming and friendly. For example, once you learn that your nursery entrance is difficult for moms with babies in tow to use and then correct the problem, they will feel welcomed. Additionally, a website that explains what a visitor should expect when they walk on campus emulates a friendly congregation.
6. Attention to visitors. Any design that is “user-centered” shows that the developer was thinking about the user during the process of design. And everyone desires to be thought about. When you think about visitors and then coordinate signage to show them how to navigate your campus, they feel an affinity and appreciation. The same can be said of a website that connects with visitors because of key words they may be looking for. The best way to be user-centered is to know what they are thinking about through feedback and metrics.
7. Growth stimulator. Essentially, I don’t believe that a church can truly grow and move toward its future without knowing what the congregation and community wants and needs. And the very best way to know this is to ask and listen — feedback.
Many systems exist to receive feedback besides printing out lengthy receipts to hand to your congregants as they leave the sanctuary; thankfully, much of it is online and free.
Website Google Analytics is a free service that generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources. Once your web developer applies some coding to your website and you set up a Google account, you’ll have access to more metrics than you ever imagined. Google provides excellent tutorials to learn how to navigate their platform. Pay attention to these stats, in particular:
Pageviews, sessions and users (located under “audience overview”) which tells you how many people visit your site in a given time period
Top pages (located under “behavior”) which tells you what they are interested in viewing on your site
Traffic (located under “acquisition”) which tells you how they got to your website
Mobile hits (located under “audience”) which tells you what device they were using to view your site
Several Social Media Tracking Services provide their own statistics for you to measure your engagement, virility and community.
Hootsuite.com — their free version provides fairly robust analytics on Facebook and Twitter
Sproutsocial.com — this fee-based scheduler has robust analytics for Facebook and Twitter
AddThis.com — a free service that allows you to track metrics of shares onto social networks from landing pages on your website
Facebook.com — from administrator access of your Facebook page, the use of “Insights” provides excellent metrics about your followers
Social media in general allows you to listen to the audience — whether they are talking directly to you or not. Take advantage of these free connections by using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in particular.
Many churches still send mass emails out from a generic or staff email address; however, using an Email Marketing Platform like ConstantContact.com or MailChimp.com will allow you to track the interaction of subscribers with your email messages. Both of these platforms, as well as many other free or low-priced services, let you see email open rates, click rates, share statistics and other necessary metrics.
Free and low cost platforms exist for you to Conduct Surveys, the most basic form of feedback:
We would love to hear from you with your feedback for ABPnews/Herald. Email us at [email protected], tweet us at @abp_rh, comment on our Facebook page at /associatedbaptistpress, or leave us a comment below.
This article originally appeared in Herald, our bi-monthly magazine. To find out more about the magazine, click here.