surveys that get you lost
Somewhere along the way, we got the idea that when we needed to figure out the direction things should go in our churches, we should do a survey. What kind of pastor do we want next? What kind of songs should we sing in worship? What kind of programs should we try to mount this year? We live in a culture of focus groups and surveys and polls, so it seems natural that we would do the same in church life.
The only problem is that they usually don't offer the results we want. Surveys about the kind of pastor people want next usually wind up with answers in two categories: 1) a combination between Jesus and James Bond, or 2) the polar opposite of the last pastor. People usually pick programs they are familiar with or had experienced at a previous church. People pick familiar songs to sing, especially songs they grew up singing. Doing surveys might give a moment of pleasure for some people, but they seldom move a church the direction it needs to go. In fact, the few times in scripture when people took a vote to determine direction or answers to a question, the results are not good.
Why? Usually it is because people don't really know what they want. Or, at least they don't know what they need. It is very difficult for people to estimate that something they have never heard of or experienced might be something they should try or is the direction they need to head. Even setting that aside, the average lay person is not naturally asking the key questions about how their answers relate to the church's mission. So, how do you determine direction without taking a survey?
- Key leaders need to be participating together in discerning the steps that are consistent with and furthering the mission of the church. Time needs to be spent in prayer, Bible study, discussion with other church leaders, and reading to come to a consensus of what the compelling call of God is.
- It must be agreed upon ahead of time that not everyone will agree or like the decision.
- It is more important to have a sense of "must" than it is to be a popular decision.
- Spend the time necessary. Don't try to put God on a schedule.
- Decide what needs to be said "no" to so that there is room to focus on what you've said "yes" to and the the next steps that will be needed to take as a congregation.