I had yet another incredible time at school. This particular class is called, A Systems Approach to Leading Congregations. The purpose of the course, as explained in the syllabus, is
To engage in a systems approach to leading a congregation that enables the candidate (me) to use demographic and congregational data in order to lead a congregation through a planning process that will lead to the creation of effective ministries in the congregation's ministry area.Whew! It sounds like a lot, right? One colleague in class explained it this way, "This just proves that our DMin degree resembles an MBA degree." He, like many of us, are amazed at the work load and the statistics and business-like classes we're taking. This isn't a bad thing, for sure but it is a lot of work. And it's work that I am thrilled to be a part of.
In this week's class, we received the data results from the congregational survey you did last semester. The results will blow your mind. In it, your responses are broken down by age, gender, and a variety of other classifications and compares it with classifications and statistics with the US and local census. It also explains your interests, pursuits, and life journey in a way that compares it with others.
I also have the results from the Ministry Audit the leaders in our congregation filled out and turned in last week. I still need to enter that information into 9 Excel spreadsheets that break down your results in various demographic and statistical ways. As the course moves throughout the semester, I will be sharing with you the entire results of both surveys. You will be able to then better determine the level of ministries that we can create based upon that information. And, you may find yourself dispelling some myths that many of us have thought defined our community and congregation. For example, did you know that only 17% of you come from the Roman Catholic tradition while 74% come from other Protestant faith traditions.
Another example of helpful information from the surveys tell us that nearly 60% of the congregation has either a college, masters, or doctorate degree? Or, that 83% and 68% of you believe that maintaining personal health and seeking long term financial security are the most important things you are concerned about with right now? Presently we're offering a debt management class to help meet the need for learning how to be more financially secure; would a ministry offering to the community looking to address personal health be something we should consider?
This is just a tiny bit of the information. I also have the statistical data from the census from communities surrounding Cresskill to include Dumont, Tenafly, Closter, and Bergenfield. This information tells us much information about who lives in and around us. We'll be able to use all of this information as we discern the best outreach and mission opportunities.
To help us in this endeavor, we will need to host a Saturday retreat (it's part of my course work) as we help create a vision plan. We did something like this two years ago, from that time we started a few exciting programs and help plan the direction of our congregation. It isn't unusual to have another such retreat. Since we've spent a great deal of time modifying our infrastructure (e.g., updating our bylaws), now we can figure out how to reach out in ministry as we build Christ's kingdom. I'll be talking more about this.
So that's pretty much it. I need to submit two book reports before next week and begin entering the survey data into the spreadsheets. I have much to do....and 'we' have much to do, but it's all very exciting and I am looking forward to what we'll be able to accomplish.