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 to explore how churches can become relevant to the people within their reach.
How to Use Pre-Defined Reports for Strategic Thinking
For years demographic research for churches has been packaged in “pre-defined reports.” 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, most congregational and regional church leaders download “Pre-Defined Reports” in MissionInsite. But how do you decide which one to use?
The QuickInsite report is ten pages and provides a snapshot of community change, along with 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. In addition, regional leaders (i.e., district, presbytery, classis, diocese, etc.) often refer to this report in annual oversight meetings.
The ExecutiveInsite report is 16 pages and provides more detailed information in the same categories as the QuickInsite report, plus additional information about:
- households with children,
- marital status,
- occupations, and
- program preferences.
Clergy often review this in board meetings, training sessions, and leadership retreats. And regional leaders often include them in the files they keep for every church under their oversight. In addition, they give it to incoming clergy and use it in conflict resolution concerning program change.
The FullInsite report is 33 pages and provides detailed information on everything in the first two reports, plus trends and projections for the next 5-10 years. It also provides details about:
- seasonal and transient populations,
- phase of life,
- school enrollment,
- income brackets,
- spending patterns,
- family and child poverty,
- country of origin and primary languages,
- lifestyle segment, and
- group diversity, workforce, and 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.
The ReligiousInsite and ReligiousInsite Priorities reports are often used together. This is specialized research gathered every four years by MissionInsite. The first report captures the variety and popularity of views in the search area about God, Jesus, and Social and Moral Values; it compares these with national averages and tracks changes over the past five years. Local and regional church leaders often refer to this for evangelism and outreach purposes, and Christian educators refer to this when designing courses and choosing curricula. (The second report provides the same data in rank order of importance and reveals five-year trends in religious involvement.) ReligiousInsite also breaks down percentages of involvement in religious traditions and denominational affiliations. This is useful to churches and non-profit agencies as they seek partners with compatible values systems.
The MinistryInsite and MinistryInsite Priorities reports are also often used together. The first captures the variety and urgency of life concerns; it 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 the most useful pre-defined report is the ComparativeInsite Report. However, it is only useful if the congregation has uploaded the member database to complete a “People Plot.” The report compares membership to the 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 (by age, income, family type, ethnicity, education, occupation, and lifestyle segment. It also provides an accurate figure for the overall financial potential for the church.
This report 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. Unfortunately, I estimate that boards and vision teams never implement at least 80% of strategic planning recommendations 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.
To see other related blogs by Tom Bandy, please visit Church Growth.