How to Use Pre-Defined Reports for Strategic Thinking
By Tom Bandy
This is my new blog about using MissionInsite for community research and church development. Available exclusively to ACST and MissionInsite subscribers. I hope you will join regularly as we explore how churches can become relevant to the people within their reach.
Demographic research for churches has been packaged in “pre-defined reports” for years. Define a search area, press a button, and get a report. The categories of information are pre-selected, and the content in each category is data relevant to your particular search area.
Since that is what we are used to, the first thing most congregational and regional church leaders do in MissionInsite is download “Pre-Defined Reports”. But how do you decide which one to use?
This report provides a snapshot of community change. As well as, key trends in population and family, educational attainment, racial and ethnic diversity, lifestyle representation, and income.
Clergy often distribute the first page widely across the congregation. It’s called “Storyview” because it describes how significant changes in these categories are for planners. The other pages are usually distributed among ministry teams for education, hospitality, outreach, and stewardship. Regional leaders (i.e. district, presbytery, classis, diocese, etc.) often refer to this report in annual oversight meetings.
This report is longer and provides more detailed information in the same categories as the QuickInsite report. Plus, additional information about households with children, generations, marital status, occupations, and program preferences are included as well.
Clergy often review this in board meetings, training sessions, and leadership retreats. And regional leaders often include them in the files the keep for every church under their oversight. They give it to incoming clergy and use it in conflict resolution concerning program change.
This report provides more detailed information on everything in the first two reports. Plus, it trends and projects for the next 5-10 years. It also provides details about seasonal and transient populations, births/deaths, phase of life, school enrollment, income brackets, and much other information.
Large and multi-site churches use this with their staff and board, and regional leaders often refer to this when planting or merging churches.
ReligiousInsite and ReligiousInsite Priorities Reports
These reports are often used together. The first captures the variety and urgency of life concerns, compares these with national averages, and tracks changes over the past five years. It also identifies the critical reasons for non-participation in a church among both outsiders and members. The second report places this information in rank order. Local clergy use this information in planning retreats and refer to it for staff development and continuing education. Regional leaders use this to prioritize financial support and program development.
Perhaps this is the most useful pre-defined report. However, it is only useful if the congregation has uploaded the member database to complete a “People Plot”. The report compares membership to mission field. Thriving churches try to mirror the demographic and lifestyle diversity of the community … but most churches do not. This report lets you see what groups are under- and over-represented in the church lifestyle segment. It also provides an accurate figure for the overall financial potential for the church.
This is the report that helps you make adaptive changes in ministries, volunteers, and staff to expand or deepen the influence of the church. It explains why the church culture, and all its ministry preferences and leadership expectations, are what they are. Why one church culture is different from another. Why churches are more or less welcoming to different groups of people. More than this, it helps leaders anticipate the nature, degree, and origins of stress when any ministry is changed.
When you use the right report, with the right people, at the right time, your strategic planning will be more effective. I estimate that at least 80% of strategic planning recommendations by boards and vision teams never get implemented simply because people don’t have the right information. Now you do.
I welcome any and all questions about using MissionInsite for ministry planning and leadership development.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.