Why does MapDash for Faith Communities Cost More?


“Why Is MapDash for Faith CommunitiesTM cost more than other demographic programs?”

It’s a question we get asked a lot. And it is true that an annual diocesan subscription to MapDash is more expensive than other programs, though renewal costs in subsequent years are somewhat less than the first year. And this is before adding the cost of guided strategic missional assessment and planning that we recommend for the first year.  Which brings us to a second question we get asked a lot…

“Why would I want to pay more for MapDash and even more for several days of consultation over a 3-6 month period? Why can’t we just use the cheaper program and do the missional assessment and planning work ourselves?”

I know, that’s actually two more questions. And all three are reasonable questions to ask.

And yes, of course you could do all those things. You could pay a lot less by subscribing to a less expensive program and doing all the demographic assessment and planning without any help.

But there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t do those things… and why you should invest more in MapDash subscription and in guided strategic missional planning.

There’s a reason that MapDash for Faith Communities is costs more.

It has to.

It has cost more because it is loaded with judicatory and congregational analytics that aren’t available anywhere else.

Analytics are what the name implies: practical faith community metrics derived from an analysis of key internal and/or external factors. And MapDash for Faith Communities contains eight faith community analytics unavailable elsewhere:

  • Congregational Vitality Index (CVI)
  • Congregational Sustainability Index (CSI)
  • Sustainability–Viability Margin Index (SVMI)
  • Missional Opportunity Index (MOI)
  • Missional Context Report (MCR)
  • MissionWebs
  • DriveTime Analysis (15 min)
  • Study Area Stats

Of course, we could provide MapDash for Faith Communities at a lower cost if we left out these eight judicatory-specific analytics. But that would make it less valuable.

Which brings us to a second reason that you should invest more in MapDash…

Because it IS more valuable.

The analytics it provides makes MapDash exponentially more valuable.

Where else could you go to get an annually updated assessment of vitality for every congregation in your judicatory with a single mouse-click? Or a five-year projection each congregation’s sustainability?

Where else could you go to see every area of projected emerging missional opportunity in your judicatory at a glance? Or every area of emerging missional challenge?

Where else could you go to see the area of greatest influence and attraction of every congregation in your judicatory? Or the areas of greatest competition among congregations?


Congregational Vitality Index. A diagnostic assessment of the overall direction (up or down) congregational health over the previous 5 years, based on four vitality-related parochial report trends:

  • Attendance. Because changes in attendance often reflect changes in underlying vitality. The trend is more important than the actual numbers, because even if the numbers contain a BS factor, the percentage of BS tends to stay constant over time.
  • Membership. Same relationship to vitality as attendance. Perhaps a higher BS factor, but again, it tends to stay constant.
  • Adults/children ratio. Because if the ratio of adults to kids is increasing, that means the congregation is aging.
  • Net operating income (or loss). A measure of stewardship strength derived by subtracting regular expenses from plate and pledge giving, and excluding endowments, bequests, rents, etc. Because a decreasing percentage of regular expenses paid for by plate and pledge is a sign of weakening stewardship.


Congregational Sustainability Index. A diagnostic 5-year projection of overall future direction (up or down) of a community’s capacity to sustain its resident congregation in its current form (i.e., a typical congregation), based on four 5-year demographic projections:

  • Population Growth. Because a growth in the number of new people in a community drives missional opportunity.
  • Diversity Growth. Because increasing diversity signals increasing turnover, which means more new residents, which also generates opportunity.
  • Generational Balance. Because an increasing older population and/or imbalance of generational cohorts decreases opportunity.
  • Qualified Population. A measure that compares population density to  same-denomination competition in order to project available population.


Sustainability–Viability Margin Index. A measure of each congregation’s “margin for improvement” in the next 5 years derived by subtracting its Congregational Vitality Index (CVI) score from its Congregational Sustainability Index (CSI) score. The larger the number, the greater the margin for improvement.

  • High SVMI Suggests Possibility for Improvement in Vitality. Meaning that if they were to more effectively engage the missional opportunities present in their neighborhoods, they could significantly improve their viability.
  • Moderate SVM: Suggests that Vitality Will Remain Unchanged. Meaning that improvement in viability is unlikely, even if they improve their engagement strategies.
  • Low SVM Suggests Possibility for Future Decline. Meaning that they may find it difficult to maintain their over time. 


Missional Opportunity Index. A map of an entire judicatory designed to identify areas of emerging missional opportunities (and challenges) via a point-by-point (¼-mile resolution) assessment of community capacity to support typically organized congregations. An MOI map uses the same criteria as the Sustainability Index: population growth, diversity growth, generational balance, and qualified population. And because it’s based on 5-year projections, it not only cues you to existing missional opportunities, but also give you a glimpse into those that are in the process of emerging or will be emerging in the near future.


Missional Context Report (MCR). Our Missional Context Reports are unique. Other faith-based demographic programs offer an extended analysis of what people’s spiritual needs are likely to be based on the predominant lifestyle segment of the communities in which they live. There are two problems with this approach.

First, the level of confidence we can have in such projections is questionable. The reason is that you are now two jumps of correlational interpretation removed from the raw data. Inferring lifestyle characteristics from demographic data is already one leap of interpretations. Adding another leap further lowers the confidence you can have in your inferences. Making broad and lengthy inferences, as some do, lowers confidence even worse.

Second, It defeats the very purpose of missional assessment, which is to prepare people to get outside the building and engage the community in assessing community needs and strengths. Two things lead people to stay inside the safe walls of their worship centers: too little community data and too much. Too little data and they’re afraid they’ll go out and make fools of themselves. Too much and they think they know enough from the data that they don’t need to go.

With our Missional Context Reports, we go in an entirely different direction. We limit ourselves to that which we can say with high confidence about a neighborhood, and even limit ourselves to information and options that have immediate practical implications for how your organize your congregation to engage the people of your neighborhood. Things like what they read, listen to, and watch, so you know how to reach them, the likely age-ranges of their children, so you can better plan educational activities, and much more.


MissionWebs. Another unique analytic provided by MapDash, MissionWebs show the equidistant drivetimes between each worship center and the same-denomination worship centers that encircle it. This defines the worship center’s area of greatest influence and greatest attraction. Put another way, it is the area of the lowest-hanging fruit.


DriveTime Analysis (15 min). Finally, drivetime analysis shows the area from which 70% of your people are likely to come. This tells you a lot about how much competition your worship center is likely to experience from its surrounding same-denomination worship centers if you don’t prioritize efforts to make them your greatest collaborators.


Study Area Stats. The uniquely valuable aspect of Study Area Stats is the ability to drop a pin anywhere in your diocese (whether there is a worship center there or not) and generate one of a half-dozen interactive, infographic reports within a specified drivetime.


In summary…

MapDash for Faith Communities does come at a somewhat higher cost than other faith-based demographic programs. But when you take into account the unique and highly granular analytics MapDash offers, it’s actual exceedingly reasonable for the value it provides. You could pay less for a different program, but you’d also be getting a lot less value for what you are spending. The real question is…

How much are the future of your adjudicatory and faith communities worth? 


Watch this space for a future article on the value of strategic missional consulting and why you shouldn’t do strategic missional assessment and planning on your own…

For more information about MapDash for Faith Communities or to schedule a MapDash demo contact Ken Howard at [email protected].