Using lead and lag measures to grow your Sunday school – and your group

When it comes to setting goals, churches often forget to consider lead and lag measures. A goal is goalsannounced – “We want to grow our Sunday school this year.” Right goal. Wrong approach. That goal isn’t measurable, for starters. A better statement to announce to the church would be, “We want to grow our Sunday school’s average attendance 10% by August 31, 2017. Now you have something that is measurable and attainable. Each Bible study group within the church’s Bible study organization would need to grow their average attendance by 10%. But it’s still not complete – this is just a lag measure. Confused? Keep reading – and let’s talk about the difference between lead and lag measures.

Lag Measures

The goal of growing the Sunday school by 10% during a specific period of time is a lag measure. You measure the attendance of the Sunday school on August 31, 2017, and see if you hit your goal. Let’s assume you begin on September 1, 2016, and you start measuring attendance for the next year. The clock starts ticking, and you have one year to accomplish your goal. You track attendance by the week, month, and quarter. This is a lag measure – it will lag behind the things you do to reach it, which are your lead measures. Lag measures are the result of tracking the right lead measures.

Lead Measures

If you want to grow your Sunday school by 10% over the next 12 months, you’ll need to set some good lead measures. They are the things you’ll act on during the year – you’ll do these first, then measure the results (the lag) to see if they accomplished your goal of 10% growth. Some lead measures for the entire Sunday school to accomplish the 10% growth might be:

  • Start 5 new ongoing Bible study groups by the end of the 12th month.
  • Contact 100 absentees per month.
  • Visit 10 prospects a week.
  • Enroll 20 new people in the Sunday school each month.

Each of the above lead measures happens in advance of achieving the growth goal of 10%. They are measurable and attainable. They are lead measures.


People need to know what the goals and measures are, so you need a way to filter than information to the people on the front lines – the group leaders. These are the men and women who are “in the trenches” week after week, teaching and ministering in the Sunday school. The lead measures above (just representative – your actual lead measures will vary depending on your circumstance and growth goals) must be broken down further so that groups have accountability and responsibility for achieving the lead goals.

I’m a group leader at my church, and here is what my group’s lead measures might look like if my church decided to use lead and lag measures:

  1. Contact 5 absentees a week for 52 weeks through email, phone calls, and hand-written notes.
  2. Enroll 1 new couple in the group every 3 months.
  3. Contact every prospect for my group within 36 hours of their first visit.
  4. Lead my group to start another one at the end of 12 months.

Now I have accountability that is measurable, and so does my group. These 4 things are doable – and I can do my part in helping my church achieve its lag goal of 10% growth by hitting my group’s lead goals.

Sunday school isn’t rocket science. Setting lead and lag goals isn’t hard. But someone has to take the wheel and set the goals. Someone has to look to make sure goals are being met. For some reason we’ve gotten away from this – but it works. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. I hope you’ll consider it.

To learn more about lead and lag measures, try reading the book The Four Disciplines of Execution. It’s got some great chapters on lead and lag measures, and could even help you in your secular work!

One comment

  1. Great article, Ken. It’s the biblical principle of reaping and sowing. You are right, Sunday School isn’t rocket science, but it is hard work and intentional work!

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