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How Are We Doing?

One of the reasons people get interested in learning more about a congregation is often that they want to know how they are doing. Are we healthy? Are we happy? Are we growing?

And are we fulfilling our mission? Ah – now there’s a reason to take stock!

That, of course, assumes that you know what that mission is, but it also calls for some creative thinking about how to know when you’ve seen evidence that it’s happening.  

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Zachary First took the case of one congregation as an illustration of the point. All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena certainly looks good on paper – 8000 members.  But is membership their mission? Rector Ed Bacon is quoted this way, “…what really makes our hearts beat fast is transformed people transforming the world. Membership isn’t our business. Turning the human race into the human family is.”

So how do you measure that? All Saints has actually devised a way of tracking how engaged their participants are and using that measure to identify possibilities for deepening that engagement. To do that, they have to pay attention to far more than who’s on the official roster or how many are in Sunday services. They pay attention to the whole range of activities that constitute their church’s culture.

Want to get started on being as focused and creative about the congregation you know best? Start by thinking about the way your Culture  reflects your stated and unstated mission. Try some of the exercises you’ll find on this site. Then gather a Focus Group to talk about what you’ve found. Taking careful account of the Processes by which your congregation makes decisions, think about how you, too, might keep track of how you’re doing in pursuing the mission you really want to pursue.

Nancy Ammerman
About the Author
Dr. Nancy T. Ammerman is Professor of Sociology of Religion in the Department of Sociology and School of Theology at Boston University. A longtime member of the Congregational Studies Team, she is Project Director of StudyingCongregations.org