What makes a good leader? In large part, a good leader is acutely aware of the followers – their desires, concerns, aspirations and willingness to be a part of the vision.
This may seem like old news. After all, how can you take people to a new place in the future if you don’t quite know where they are standing right now?
But, frankly, very few churches and church leaders get an “A” in knowing their people.
Church leaders have been notorious for forging ahead, sometimes viewing collaboration or “checking in” as weakness or leading as a people pleasing populist.
The times we live in call for something very different. It is time to listen deeply and listen well. And without the ability (for a number of reasons) to sit down over a cup of coffee with each member, custom surveys are being designed to link leaders with congregations.
One of our concerns as church consultants at Auxano is that we regularly see a gap between what the leaders are thinking, planning and praying about and what their people know about those things. There is sometimes a surprising gap. And this is not coming from a malicious place and hardly ever is it a leader trying to be a bully. It is in large part the nature of humans and the nature of church communication.
In the age of data – its capture, analysis, and use – there is no longer an excuse for senior leaders of churches to not know what is happening with their people. What are their concerns and obstacles? Is there a better way to connect with people? Are there more effective ways to execute ministry? How do we leverage our opportunities and meet our challenges?
What are the A-Ha moments that emerge through these congregational assessments? There are at least five.
1. The Buy-In
One of the most encouraging parts of surveying in most congregations is discovering that people do really love their church. They know that it is not perfect but want to be part of something bigger than themselves in serving God. This can be asked both qualitatively and quantitatively and is often seen in the comments.
2. The Gaps
At every church, we discover that there is some aspect of church life, ministry design or future plans that are not being understood in the way that leadership intended. Sometimes this is outright disagreement with a plan or posture, but often it is a gap of communication – someone was not listening well, or someone was not explaining well. Identifying the gaps enables leaders to fill in those gaps.
3. The Challenges
The rawness of an anonymous survey has proved to be very helpful. People tend to not want to cause trouble. There are some people that will regularly confront a church leader with a problem. But the most faithful and loyal (the people actually doing the work and the giving) will rarely rock the boat. Yet, these are the people that leaders need to hear from – they are invested, committed and supportive and now have an opportunity to say something via an anonymous survey. This is a win-win for both leaders and those who may need to unburden themselves. God uses this in a powerful way.
4. The Concerns
The very nature of a survey allows leadership a snapshot of what people care about and are concerned about. On the one hand, the study reveals what people value (What do they truly care about?). On the other hand, it reveals what has them distressed (What are they concerned about?). Often people feel alone in their thoughts, and the survey enables leaders to see a trend or a collection of similar concerns. Instead of discounting one person’s comment in an email, they must treat a “thread” as something that God may want to reveal to the leadership.
5. The Opportunities
The exciting part of survey ministry is that it almost always reveals some low-hanging fruit. In other words, some of the things that get highlighted are quick fixes. Sometimes small changes can make big differences when you are aware that some aspect of the ministry has been a “pebble in the shoe” of many congregants. Comments and questions also reveal the heart of the people – which is almost always a genuine love for Christ and desire to serve. Becoming aware of the collective force and positive leaning of a congregation can be an encouraging boost to leadership that the best days are ahead.
One of the most gratifying things we get to do as Navigators at Auxano is present the results of a custom congregational survey to the leadership of a church we serve. The information is gold. The feedback is helpful. The comments are revealing. It gives a roadmap to the future by highlighting the potholes to avoid and the paths to take.
We’re talking about the importance of truly listening-to and understanding your people all month as we launch Auxano Assessments. Join Auxano CEO & Co-founder Jim Randall next Thursday, March 18 at 11:00 am EDT as he and the Auxano Assessments team introduce a new suite of collaborative survey tools designed to fuel growth minded leaders like you. Reserve your virtual seat here.