In 2015 the Northern Illinois Conference went through a major organizational review including the use of a judicatory tool called “Landscape.” The Landscape assessment told us that a key desire of pastors and laity is to be (1) equipped to reach new members using new strategies, (2) equipped to help members grow as disciples and to (3) equipped for more effective community outreach. This focus has become part of our conference priorities.
In the course of 12 listening sessions across the conference to help test the findings of the Landscape Assessment, laity and clergy continued to champion the need for tools to be more effective as disciples. Fast-forward to the fall of 2016 when a Staffing Task Force composed of a cross section of leadership realized we needed more than our assumptions to think about equipping the local church into the future.
The Task Force decided that a survey was in order and partnered with The Alford Group, an organizational coaching organization, to design and analyze a survey. You will be hearing more about the findings at annual conference and into the future, but for this brief article I want to highlight a few items.
The survey was sent to representative lay and clergy across the conference. Of 1,200 invited participants, 519 responded, a 47% participation rate. Thank you to all those who took the time to share in this work. There was strong participation from every district in the conference and churches of every size.
On the topic of Equipping, we learned that:
- You prefer live, on-site and regional training resources.
- You prefer events on your district and/or within approximately a one-hour travel time.
- You prefer tailored training, improved communications, and on-demand resources.
- Focused on outreach, we learned that:
- 83% of respondents would like to learn ways to share their faith.
- You wish to focus on community outreach, mission, and leadership development.
- You want to learn how to invite others to church.
- You wish to identify and meet needs of the community while relating to neighbors.
Strengthening connection, we learned that:
- The conference e-news and website are the highest rated tools for communication in terms of important methods of connection.
- You value the use of social media and direct contact.
- Face to face discussion with other churches would be helpful.
- You would like to partner with other churches on outreach.
- Networks, clusters, and partnerships are among the top types of beneficial connections.
So what’s next? Pending approval of a new organizational model (another outgrowth of the Landscape Assessment), these findings will create a foundation for carrying forward the priorities of the conference in the coming years.
Meanwhile, feedback on communication, access to online training, topics and modes of training will guide the work of our connectional ministry staff and our work areas, as we plan our equipping efforts in the year ahead.