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Internal and External Assessments

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For The CRG Created For The CRG
Five Things to Know about Assessments

Assessment tools are used in congregational planning. Such tools are helpful in strategic planning, formation of new programs, improvement of existing projects and more.

There are internal assessment tools and external assessment tools. Internal tools help you learn about your congregation, its members, staff and other constituents who are part of your congregation. External tools help you learn more about your neighborhood and the community around you.

Here are five things to keep in mind when thinking about using assessment tools.

  1. Surveys that you create yourself are not typically reliable. You often receive opinions rather than good data. Plus, surveys that you create yourself do not typically have additional data sets to which you can compare the information you gather. So, I do not recommend surveys that you create. 
  2. Look for tools that have data sets that you can use as comparisons to the information you gather. This is especially true for internal assessments. 
  3. Tools that measure strengths are helpful because you can connect the data to your congregation’s capacity and passion. Assessments that focus on problems or weaknesses can be dispiriting. It is typically more productive to fortify strengths than to try to fix weaknesses. 
  4. It is natural to feel overwhelmed when you receive information from assessments. Don’t try to interpret all of it at once. Start with the data that most closely relates to your original reason for using the assessment tool. Go back to your original questions. Set your original questions alongside the data. What behaviors come to mind? What action steps get generated? In other words, allow yourself only so much time figuring out the data. Go with what generates the most energy and discern what actions, however small, might be first steps. 
  5. Assessment tools should help conversation along. They are not the lasts word. The conversation you have about the results of the assessment is more important than the data. You know the tool is helping you when it leads you to a really good face-to-face conversation. 
     
web resource
Church Assessment Tool (CAT)
This congregational assessment from Holy Cow Consulting provides benchmark data to inform decisions about identity, clergy search, strategic planning or a financial campaign.
web resource
Transforming Church Insight (TCI)
This assessment tool provides an evaluation of your congregation's sense of community.

About the Contributor

Contributor
Tim Shapiro

Tim is president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations – of which the CRG is a program. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tim’s interest in how congregations learn to do new things is represented in his book How Your Congregation Learns.

Congregational Assessment

If religious leaders are looking to run a successful congregation, then they might need to audit their group on a regular basis in order to discover its strengths and weaknesses . That is where a church assessment, also known as a congregational assessment, can be helpful. It’s important for leaders to conduct assessments on a regular basis to be able to discern how they can begin to improve their church. If not, leaders may end up remaining blind to certain areas of their church that might need to improve. For all of these reasons, it can be a good idea to think about the various parts of a church assessment and take the next steps into consideration.

For example, leadership may want to start with something known as a pastoral survey. This is a survey that can be passed out or distributed electronically in order to collect feedback on how members of the church leadership team are doing. For instance, some church questions to ask when it comes to this type of survey can often include how members of the congregation enjoy the sermons, anything that could be changed in order to improve the quality of the sermons, and information on interactions that members of the congregation may have had with certain individuals in the church leadership.

In addition, it may be a good idea to pass out church community survey questions. These are questions that are oftentimes going to focus on the community of the church as a whole, instead of only on the church leadership group. The survey questions can be helpful in assessing how comfortable people feel within the congregation.

Finally, it can also be a good idea to consider taking something called a church planning inventory. WIS inventory can be seen as an important resource because it helps enable people to begin figuring out what types of equipment the church may need, as well as what types of equipment the church may have too much of. For example, if the congregation is expanding, it may find itself needing to invest in new AV equipment, in order to better broadcast the sermon to members of the group.

Congregational Survey Questions

Ultimately, one of the key parts of a church assessment is likely going to be conducting something that is known as a congregational survey. It can be a good idea to think carefully about which sort of congregational survey questions to ask, and when developing a questionnaire for church members, it can prove to be worth approaching this as a church satisfaction survey.

For example, it may be useful to ask members of the community how they feel about the times of the sermons. A lot of churches, for instance, will have two sessions, with one session taking place early in the morning, and another session then taking place later in the morning. In some cases, the church may choose to divide these sermons. The first sermon, for example, maybe more traditional, whereas the second sermon may be more modern. Even though this works for a lot of churches, it is not necessarily always going to work for every church out there. With this in mind, the church might begin taking steps to collect feedback from members of the congregation, to see how they feel about the timing of these sermons, as there may in fact be a chance that they need to change.

When picking church survey questions, it can also be a good idea to try and focus on changes that may have taken place within the church recently. For example, if something has been changed from last year, it might be worth examining and learning how members of the congregation feel about this. This can potentially represent a good way to see if the change has to move farther in that same direction, or if it should instead revert back to the old way.

Finally, it can also be good practice to make sure to include a few questions focusing on small group sessions. Small group sessions can often be seen as the lifeblood of many churches, and it can be good for religious groups to try and get as many people involved in the session as possible. If the attendance at these small group sessions has started to wane, it may be a good idea to figure out why. One of the ways to potentially do this is to include information on these small groups in the questionnaire.

Congregational Evaluation Questions

In addition to a regular survey, it can be good to conduct something known as a church evaluation. When a congregation is conducting a survey, the leadership group is simply asking for feedback on the church community as a whole - whereas, in contrast, an evaluation can be a little bit different. Usually, there will be a specific person or facet of the congregation that is being evaluated. In essence, members of the church body are being asked to grade the performance of one aspect of the church. And naturally, this is likely going to lead to very different questions being asked.

For instance, perhaps one of the key components of church evaluation questions is the act of conducting a church congregational survey for a new pastor. If there has been a new pastor hired by the church recently, then it might prove to be a good idea to see how members of the congregation feel about the new pastor. This can potentially be seen as one of the cornerstone elements of a church evaluation.

Additionally, it can be good to provide a questionnaire on church growth. With this questionnaire, the goal is oftentimes going to be to see how members of the congregation feel about the rate of expansion of the church. Ideally, the group should likely be growing and collecting new members. If the pace of the growth of the church is too slow, it might be a good idea to ask the members of the congregation why they feel that this might be the case.

Finally, it can also be a good idea to focus on a ministry questionnaire. Many churches will have outreach programs that they will engage in on a regular basis, and it can be prudent for churches to see how members of the congregation feel about the current state of the ministry programs. Perhaps someone in the congregation will, for instance, have some constructive criticism to provide, regarding one of the ministry programs. Or, they may also have ideas for new ministry programs which could possibly be implemented. With this in mind, it can be a great idea to consider soliciting feedback on the current state of the ministry in the church.

Congregational Assessment Questions

Ultimately, it can be a good idea to take a look at a few examples when it comes to church assessment questions. When conducting church worship survey questions, it might help to try and view this as a church strategic planning survey. For example, one of the questions that should perhaps be included in the church assessment is, “how do you feel about the overall relevance of the sermons?” This question can be helpful because it asks members of the community how they feel about the current sermons. Maybe the sermons are not relevant to their everyday life. Or, it could also just as likely be the case that the members of the community are big fans of the current sermons.

Another question to consider asking is, “do you feel that the church is improving your ability to walk with the Lord?” Of course, the primary goal of the church is likely going to be to better enable members of the congregation to become closer to the Lord. If the church is not able to do this, then it is quite possible that something has to change. And thus, this is likely going to prove to be one of the most important questions on the church assessment survey and could help the church to begin moving forward in the future.

Church Needs' Assessment Survey

In addition, it can be good for members of the church leadership team to conduct a sample church profile. This can be seen as one of the key elements of a church needs’ assessment survey. Conducting a parish needs assessment survey can be a great idea because it allows members of the church leadership an opportunity to adequately address the current needs of the church. This could include not only new staff members but also certain types of equipment. Without conducting this needs assessment, it is likely going to be more difficult for members of the church leadership group to work to fill in the gaps.

For example, it might be a good idea to pass out COVID church survey questions. These questions can be useful because they can create a chance for the church to figure out how they are going to keep the members of their community involved, even if they are not allowed to gather close to one another. Furthermore, if the church is starting to open its doors once again, it can still be a priority to keep everyone safe, through the implementation of things such as masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer. After handling these physical issues, it is also possible for the church to plan future sermons related to the pandemic - all of which can prove to be of importance in helping to ensure that the religious body is able to move constructively into the future.

Church Leadership Survey

Finally, it can also be a good idea to conduct a church leadership survey using a church leadership questionnaire. This will likely include not only a congressional survey for new pastors but for experienced leaders, as well. In addition to serving members, it can be immensely helpful to ask for feedback from members of church leadership. After all, members of the church leadership team can tend to occupy these positions for a reason, and there is likely a good chance that they are going to have some good ideas regarding how to address the strengths and weaknesses of the church. Furthermore, this can also make it possible for the church to address the needs of its current leadership staff.

For instance, it might be a good idea to ask church leaders if they feel that their members are heavily involved in Sunday sermons. If there are disparate responses between members of the church leadership and members of the congregation, then it may be a good idea to then take steps to try and figure out why. In addition, it can also be a smart move to ask members of the church leadership for suggestions on how to potentially address some weaknesses. That way, it might therefore become more possible to help improve the experience of everyone involved in the church as a whole - including not just the congregation, but the pastors as well.

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