Monday, November 03, 2008

A Review of Willow Creek's Follow Me (Reveal): Why Collect Data

(Part 4 in a series)

Another strength of Follow Me is that it models some of the possible uses of data for a local church. It would seem that church leaders would benefit from knowing what their church members want. In addition to thinking and praying about this, church leaders can also just ask them, and Follow Me demonstrates how to do this. As shown on page 38, Follow Me asked respondents what they thought was important in a church and if they were satisfied with it in their own church.

Likewise, these data can be used to find out which groups in a church are most or least satisfied. Once satisfaction data are collected, it’s a simple matter to compute satisfaction scores for separate types of people in a church—young, old, male, female, white, racial minority, small group members, new members, and long-time attendees.

Once church leadership has this information—what their people want and who is satisfied, they can act in a variety of ways. They can use this information in guiding them in creating programs tailor made for where their church members are at. Or, they can alter existing programs to better fit what people want. Or, they can keep the programs the same but explain to their members why they are doing so, to clear up any concerns or misunderstandings.

I attend a church that took part in Follow Me, and so I took the survey as a respondent, and I also met with the leadership while they discussed the survey results. I did have a few concerns about the survey itself; for example, my church was started three years ago, but according to the survey, 9% of the respondents from this church reported attending for 5 years or more. I don’t know if this was a goof on the part of the respondents themselves or by the Reveal program in analyzing the data.

Nonetheless, the church leadership found some of the results helpful in their planning for the coming years, especially who was satisfied/dissatisfied with which aspects of the church. After listening to the discussion, I cam away thinking that the discussion itself, perhaps more so than the specific findings of the church survey, was important. Just the fact that the leadership was talking about who wanted what seemed like a good idea, and they made conclusions that went far beyond the data themselves. As such, the very process of taking a survey and working out what it means seems valuable as an opportunity to question church assumptions and traditions. It is a time to rethink a church's standard procedures.

Next: What's new?

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