Forecasting Emerging Missional Opportunities – Creating the Missional Opportunity Index (Part 1)

A good hockey player plays where the puck is.
A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.

Wayne Gretzky
(Canadian professional ice hockey player – 1979 to 1999)

Missional opportunity is like hockey in this respect: If you wait to engage it after it has already emerged, it is already too late to engage it effectively. If you do want to engage missional opportunity effectively, you have to be there, prepared and ready, where and when it emerges, because if you wait, you will be forced to play a losing game of reactive catch-up after the fact.

Say you are considering starting a new congregation. If you wait until a growing community has developed a sufficient number of people to populate and financially support a house of worship, the rising price of real estate will have made purchasing the property on which to construct it cost prohibitive (if there are any suitable properties that have not already been snapped up by builders or more forward-thinking denominations). Similarly, if your established congregation waits to adapt its ministries to its changing neighborhood until the transformation is complete, one-time newcomers may have set down roots in congregations that loved them enough to adapt to them. No, you have to be willing to take the risk of predicting where and when the opportunity is going to be doing what is necessary to be there.

This was the challenge FaithX had in mind when we partnered with Datastory to create the Missional Opportunity Index (MOI). The MOI is a form of map-based Location Intelligence that provides leaders of dioceses and other judicatories with a 5-year forecast of where missional opportunities and challenges are likely to emerge within the geography that lies within their borders (what marketing professionals call a “Market Texture”). It is created using a predictive four-factor algorithm derived from 5-year projections of demographic trends directly correlated with Missional Opportunity (MO). These four projected trends are:

  • Population Growth, as it represents an influx of new and unaffiliated people and/or a rapidly increasing rising generation.
  • Diversity Growth, as it represents turnover in the current population.
  • Generational Balance, as a balance of older and younger generational cohorts is more conducive to MO than either a rapidly increasing or decreasing median age.
  • Qualified Population (available population after competition), since fewer same-denomination worship centers competing within a 15-min DriveTime increases the available population.

To generate the MOI map, we create a quarter-mile-square matrix across the entirety of the diocese or other judicatory, then “drop a pin” on each of those thousands of points, sampling the population within a 15-min drive from each point, and extracting 5-year projections of the four factors, and calculating an MOI score. Those scores are represented as pixels on a map, shaded on a color scale from dark green (representing high MO) to dark red (representing low MO – a.k.a. Missional Challenge).

Based on this Missional Intelligence, leaders can then study their communities using the demographic mapping capability of MapDash for Faith Communities and verify what they learn through direct conversations with the populations of local neighborhoods their congregations serve.

Check back next week for an example of the Missional Opportunity Index in action!