This article is part 2 of a series. Click here to read part 1.
Last time, we looked at the first three simple steps to get the church assessment conversation going within your local congregation: pray well, listen well and communicate well. Here are the last three. These steps are more involved and require clarity and cooperation between the leadership and laity.
Whether you are gathering information from personal interviews or from a written instrument, you must do something with the information you receive if you plan to make use of the gold you have mined. You must develop a way to analyze the data so that you can begin to make decisions about programming, personnel and partnerships. The exercise of church assessment is too critical not to compile the information in a manner that makes it easy to see areas of opportunity. It will also help you put some things to bed that no longer have significance to the congregation or community.
After being at Shiloh Garland for only a few months, it became apparent that the church was allocating financial and human resources to a monthly dinner for new members that was held at a local facility. This came at a great cost to the church. When the data came back on the programs and initiatives each ministry sponsored, we discovered that very few new members actually participated. What might have been a good idea at one time had now devolved into a free fancy dinner for a few workers, yet it provided no value to the church and did nothing to further the church’s mission at that time.
Don’t feel the pressure to bring a perfect plan to the church. Don’t attempt to construct any plan alone. The perspective of one person is far too narrow to accomplish the great things God wants to do through your local church. Take some time to hear God concerning the information that you have received from your efforts to communicate, and listen well. Let that information have time to soak in. Spend time in quiet observation to see if the data supports your observations. Should you find that it does not, reassess your method of gathering information. There might be a problem in how data was collected or requested.
You have a tremendous opportunity to do really great work at this stage. If your team has listened well, you could experience a significant win immediately if you get the important things right. At one church that I’m familiar with, the members had recently called a new pastor. Person after person shared a concern that had persisted for quite some time. The new pastor was able to come in and get the problem solved and gained immediate credibility.
As easy as it is to get immediate wins when the plans match real needs, it is equally as easy to suffer defeat which can take years to overcome. My predecessor of the first church I pastored had gotten together with a small group of people and decided to remove all of the wooden pulpit furniture and replaced it with acrylic furniture, which sparked an uproar. Needless to say, he didn’t last much longer and the first thing they changed after his name on the sign was the pulpit furniture.
Take your time and really understand the information you gathered and then, with a group, plan accordingly.
You will gain tremendous credibility if you are able to understand the needs of the church and community, then execute changes well. When I got to Shiloh Garland there were 127 people at the most. By following this simple church assessing format and making the needed changes, we grew to 300 people in a few months. By my eleventh month, we had closed on another property three-times the size of the original church building. It was an exciting time because we were able to start new ministries within the church and began to look outward toward the needs of the community. Today, we are solid partners in the community and offer services to meet the needs of the congregation and the community.
Please know that you will have to assess continuously because the church is a living organism and is in constant transition in one way or another. You should walk the corridors with your eyes open for opportunities and your ears open to hear God speaking.