Thursday, March 27, 2008

What should be measured in church surveys?

I got a thoughtful e-mail from a pastor/seminary professor here in New England in response to my postings on the Reveal Study.

He asks the big question with applied research on Christianity: What should be measured?

He writes: "Even after [years] as a seminary professor and pastor of a church, I have found no biblically and sociologically validated criteria that could serve as legitimate measures. While I've seen many books on what marks a good church, the criteria seem more intuitive or arbitrary than validated."

Great question...

We could actually break it into two questions:

1) What are the outcome variables. That is, what are the things that mark a successful church?

2) What are the predictor variables. What are the things that change the outcome variables?



Glen Davis said...

Two interesting proposals are Natural Church Development and the Christian Life Profile.

Natural Church Development is probably the closest thing out there to what the question is looking for.

It measures 8 aspects of a church's congregational life and makes predictions about the future growth of the church based on their health as measured by the tool.

The pluses to this tool are that it works for church growth. The downside is that I'm not sure the tool measures much that is distinctively Christian. A mosque or a synagogue could probably use it with minimal adaptation.

The Christian Life Profile evaluates 10 beliefs, 10 virtues, and 10 practices that I believe were arrived at during the doctoral project of the pastor of Pantego Bible Church.

The theory used by some churches is that if people are growing in these areas then the church is functional and healthy.

The pluses is that the tool is distinctively Christian, but I'm not convinced that the tool is all that great. Another downside is that it measures individuals and not their relationships (which the first tool is much better at).

I guess the ideal tool would be a hybrid of these two - one that expected distinctively Christian outcomes in individual lives and also measured organizational health in some distinctively Christian way.

Brad Wright said...

Thank you Glenn, these sources are very helpful!

Knumb said...

I didn't read the Willow Creek series, but a couple of questions spring to mind... stuff to the effect of:

- How many visitors have you introduced yourself to in the last year
-- then further questions to go in depth about that

- How many hours/days have you spent in ministry inside/outside the church in the last year.

One thing I wonder is, are questions about how much you give, in themselves, antithetical to Biblical giving. If the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing, what should a pollster know?

My 2 cents

Anonymous said...

I have used Natural Church Development at my church. The results were accurate as a description of the church. It was fascinating to see how the church reacted to the information.


Brad Wright said...

Good thoughts, John. The questions get at important things.

I'm glad to hear that you had a good experience, Derek. I've heard that from others.

Sid said...

I would think that a survey should in some way measure the growth of the people in becoming more Christ-like. Are the people becoming more generous, patient, kind, etc. (Fruit of the Spirit kind of things) Otherwise we would be measuring the church by worldly standards such as numerical growth or intellectual standards like how much more does one know.
If you ever put one together I'ld be glad to help do a validation test run at the church I'm serving at.