Whose survey results are they?
Levels of Influence
Every group in the world has within it a hierarchy of influence. Whether it be a Sunday School class, a family, a workplace team or even a terrorist cell, when people gather in a group for any purpose, a pecking order of influence over the group exists.
This is of course no different in a church. If you were to line up everyone in your church, it would be possible to arrange them in order of their individual influence, good or bad, over the decisions and culture of your church as a whole. This line of people would stretch from the key influencers at one end, right through to the one I call 'Little Johnny', the person who comes once every 6 months to keep out of hell just in case the Gospel's true.
It is important to understand that these 'key influencers' may or may not have a leadership position, may or may not be outspoken (some control their church without even speaking) and may or may not be members of the church or even be alive in this world (some rule churches from the grave, though only in as much as it serves the good or bad purposes of the living key influencers). A key influencer is simply one of the people most able to make a decision go through or to block it, or a person most respected or feared in your church.
The origin of your survey result
This principle of influence directly speaks into the question of "whose survey results are they?” Your church's Minimum and Maximum Factors, Lowest and Highest 5 or 10 results (if using a detailed analysis) and your overall health profile did not just suddenly drop from above. Further more it most certainly is not a product of God's sovereign intention. Every detail in your survey results has a human origin. At one point in time in the history of your church, influential people taught, modeled, prioritised or allowed your survey results into existence. Even if everyone in your church perfectly reflected the survey results, for some (like little Johnny) this would still be the outcome of having been influenced by more influential people in the church, but for those at the other end of the spectrum, such a consistent culture would simply be the product of who they are, multiplied by their influence over others.
Programs for the congregation
Strangely, despite this strong connection between the spiritual health of the key influencers of a church and the church's survey results, much analysis and strategising is often aimed primarily at-
- programs for the congregation.
The underlying question behind such an approach by the leadership is "How can we get those people to grow?” - that is, the people who have considerably less influence over the culture of the church - and what program can we use to do so? This peculiar and highly inefficient approach often finds its fullest expression when the key influencers have experience with strategic planning and management (perhaps from their day-to-day world), but not in an environment like the church where the product, the advertising and the delivery system is the people (though even savvy companies know this). Many times such people are not naturally inclined to recognise themselves as the problem and the solution at the most personal level. They therefore attempt to outsource to the less influential 'congregation' the implementation of an invented programatic solution.
In sharp contrast to this attempted remedy, the ailments recognised in a church's survey results almost always emerge over time from the-
- everyday habits of the key influencers.
Far from being the product of an event in the life of the church, the specific root causes behind a church's results - both good and bad - are most frequently shaped by consistent patterns of behaviour and repeated decisions made day after day, week after week by these people of influence during the seemingly mundane activities of church life.
What about me?
Palatable or not, your church's NCD results reflect the key influencers more than anyone else. This is cause for affirmation of these people with respect to the Maximum Factor areas of your church. These areas would not be strong apart from their influence. Of course, the Maximum Factor and Minimum Factor areas come as a box set. You can't take one without the other.
Before asking, 'What does this mean?' 'Why did the congregation respond this way on the survey?' 'How can we get these people to grow?' the key influencers need to look at the results at face value and ask 'What about me?' 'How do these results directly reflect me and my spiritual growth?' Of course, if the answer is 'They don't reflect me!' then it is reasonably obvious that such a person is not a key influencer in your church. There is no shame in this if soberly recognised - but they would want to carefully test with others whether or not they were reflected in the results. Otherwise, you have a person with influence and no responsibility shaping the future of your church.
It is very important that in the understand stage of the cycle, ownership of the survey results emerges from the key influencers. If this is then followed up by them planning to and doing things differently in their day to day (thereby transforming their influence energy), that healthy influence will flow to the congregation... 'all by itself'
If you're not a key influencer... if those you look at across the leadership table aren't either... then humanly speaking, who is determinig the future of your church?