Lead Indicators vs Lead Measures (and the Surprising Super Powers Available When You Know What to Look for)

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I have written a lot about ideas, practices and tools you might think aren't really about ministry (and in particular, small group ministry). Things like customers, the preferred future, milestones, lead measures, lead indicators, scorecards and job descriptions.

The title for this post is important. "Lead Indicators vs Lead Measures (and the Surprising Super Powers Available When You Know What to Look for)" points to my belief that applying and employing these ideas will lead to better results (even eye-opening results).

Now, I have a set of readers, a fairly large part of the tribe, that easily see how these ideas, practices and tools can help them build a thriving small group ministry. They recognize the practical upside in thinking outside the normal ministry box to arrive at the preferred future they've dreamed of reaching (and in many cases have shared their excitement with me when they begin stepping into what at one time wasn't even something that seemed possible (like closing in on 100% connected or truly building an effective coaching structure where leaders were being developed and discipled in a way that was clearly impacting the members of every group.

And to be fair, I also have a set of readers who wish I would stick to tried and true small group ministry ideas, practices and tools. I hear from this group too, and they're almost always kind and courteous when they share their concern that things like customers, the preferred future, milestones, lead measures, lead indicators, scorecards and job descriptions might lead to caring about things that don't really matter (or might even lead to being too performance oriented).

I don't know which end of the spectrum you are on, but I hope you have an open mind and can at least consider the upside of thinking outside the normal ministry box.

Today's post is a good example of learning how to use a couple ideas or practices to build a thriving small group ministry.

I've written about both lead indicators and lead measures and can see how they might be confusing.

Lead Indicators

In the world of economics, leading indicators are "indicators that usually change before the economy as a whole changes. They are therefore useful as short-term predictors of the economy." Stock market returns, building permits, and average weekly jobless claims are all leading indicators.

I wrote an article that referenced one of my favorite Dallas Willard quotes and pulled from it four lead indicators of small group ministries that are actually making disciples. See also, 4 Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries that AMake Disciples.

Lead Measures vs Lag Measures

I've also written about an idea from  4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney. McChesney points out that most of us are familiar with what many refer to as "lag measures." An attendance goal, for example, is a lag measure.

"We want to have 50 new small groups and connect 500 more people in groups by the end of February, 2022" is an expression of several lag measures. It's a goal and we can celebrate if we hit the goal.

But, we can't know if what we're doing will produce the results we desire unless we are identifying the lead measures that result in achieving the goal.

“‘Lead’ measures, on the other hand, are different: they foretell the result. They have two primary characteristics. First, a lead measure is predictive, meaning that if the lead measure changes, you can predict that the lag measure also will change. Second, a lead measure is influenceable; it can be directly influenced by the team (p. 46-47).”

Examples of lead measures that might result in 50 new groups and 500 more people in groups would be:

  1. Planning and executing 4 connecting events by the end of January,
  2. Building in a series of invites in the messages in January that give potential leaders an opportunity to "do the study with a few friends."
  3. Inviting every small group leader to consider not meeting as a group for the church-wide series but instead dividing their existing group into 3 sets of two couples each and inviting unconnected friends to join them for the series.

These lead measures (and others like them) can be tracked as they are completed and by tracking their completion we can connect the dots in determining if they actually lead to the lag measures we hope to achieve.

See also, FAQ: What Should We Be Measuring to Build a Thriving Small Group Ministry? and Can Your Model Make What You Dream of Making?

I hope you'll consider applying and employing these practices. They will help you build a thriving small group ministry.

Need more help?

Two of my online video courses would be helpful to better understand the importance of incorporating lead indicators and lead measures in your planning. Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry will provide:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your current situation (limiting factors, barriers, untapped resources and advantages)
  • The tools that will help you identify future opportunities with the most upside.
  • Resources that help you craft a preferred future that will help your ministry move in the right direction
  • The strategies that will help you move in the direction of your preferred future and stay on course.

How to Diagnose Your Small Group Ministry will help you learn:

  • How to determine the win(s) for your small group ministry. Identifying the win(s) at the very beginning will enable you to have eyes to begin to see what might need to be changed.
  • How to spot the most important design issues; the flaws in your design that will block success every season. Add this set of tools to your toolbox and you'll see ministry design in an entirely different way.
  • How to chart a course that will begin moving your ministry in the right direction. Beyond just learning to spot design issues, learning to skillfully plan the first milestone and choose the lead measures that prove you are on a path to your preferred future is a game-changer.
  • How to develop the practice of regular assessment and course correction. This skill will allow you to function both on the ground level with your team and from 10,000 feet identifying necessary design corrections in real time.

As you can see, both courses are packed with the ideas, practices and tools that you need to build a thriving small group ministry.

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