On behalf of the Congregation Council, I wish to thank all of you who responded to the recent congregation vitality survey. It was not an easy survey to complete. Even before I began my own response to the survey, I had heard that many of you were frustrated with it, and as I began to answer the questions I could understand why you felt that way. Some of the questions were unclear to me. For example, what definitions of “mission” and “vision” did the questions rely upon? Since I joined Prince of Peace, I have always had a sense of the mission of our congregation, and I have helped draft language to express it, but was that really mission as the survey defined it, or did it include elements of our vision. I was confused. Accurate responses to other questions required information that I did not have. For example, in the “external sustainability” category an accurate response would require me to have good information about changing community demographics. Again, I have a general impression but not the kind of knowledge that should have informed my response.
If anyone should be expected to have the knowledge to give informed responses to the survey questions it should be your congregation president. But I did not feel confident in my responses, and that led me to question the validity and therefore the value of the results of the survey.
For now, I will suspend my judgement on the validity of the results. I have enough experience with surveys to understand that the combined results can often be valid even when the individual respondents are less than confident in some of their answers.
But apart from the specific results there is another way that this survey has already become valuable to our congregation. The survey has begun to tell us how to think about our congregation’s vitality. It lays out twelve dimensions of congregation vitality and tells us we may benefit from thinking about our congregation using that twelve dimension framework. For people like me, who were frustrated by not having the information to answer a question, it suggests that we should create ways to capture that information so we have greater clarity on how we are doing and what we need to do in the future.
My takeaway, then, is that the greatest value of the survey may be as a “push poll” or “selling survey”, in which the goal of the surveyors is not just (or even primarily) to get valid information, but also to educate or influence the respondents. That process has begun. As we await the results and analysis, let us also learn from the survey and view it as a step toward a robust process of improving our vitality
If you would like to connect with me further on how the council is proceeding through the “Liberating Structures” leadership renewal process, please send me an email.