Forecasting Emerging Missional Opportunities – Creating the Missional Opportunity Index (Part 2)

As you learned in last week’s post, the Missional Opportunity Index (MOI) is a version of what marketing professionals call a Market Texture: a map-based representation of emerging market conditions based on a predictive algorithm composed of relevant correlated demographic factors. To generate the MOI, the program starts by creating a quarter-mile-square matrix across the entirety of a diocese, district, or other judicatory. Then it “drops a pin” on one of those thousands of points, samples the population with a 15-min drive from that point, and extracting 5-year projections of four demographic factors that drive Missional Opportunity (MO).

These four opportunity-related factors are:

  • Population Growth.Increasing population in an area is directly related to MO, as it represents an influx of new and unaffiliated people and/or a rapidly increasing rising generation.
  • Diversity Growth. Increasing diversity in an area is directly related to MO, becauseeven if area population has plateaued, it represents turnover in the current population. 
  • Generational Balance.Increasing imbalance between older and younger cohorts is inversely related to MO, as rapidly increasing or decreasing median age predicts reduced financial resources.
  • Qualified Population (a measure of population vs. competition).The number of same denomination worship centers competing for the population with a 15-min DriveTime is inversely correlated to MO.

The MOI map below represents Missional Opportunity in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. The map represents areas of high MO in medium-to-dark green, areas of moderate MO in yellow-to-light-green, and areas of low MO in orange-to-dark red. It forecasts that several areas of high Missional Opportunity will be emerging in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland over the next five years, each of which will require different missional strategies to effectively engage.

The next map represents emerging missional opportunity in the rapidly growing community of Urbana along the I-270 corridor between Rockville and Frederick in Maryland.

Since there are no Episcopal congregations (or any other mainline congregations) within a 15-minute DriveTime of the emerging Urbana MO area, the most effective way to engage that opportunity is to start a new congregation there. Based on this Missional Intelligence, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is now preparing to start such a congregation in 2020.

Meanwhile, another area of Missional Opportunity is emerging in the growing community of Dayton, which lies within a 15-min DriveTime of the four existing Episcopal congregations that surround it. To effectively engage this emerging opportunity, those congregations would be well-advised to collaborate in reaching out into the Dayton area with team ministry.

But what do you do when you encounter a large area of Missional Challenge (e.g., with low MO) as in the Allegany County area above, in which the 15-min DriveTimes of four congregations lie almost entirely with a large swath of red? 

This does not necessarily mean the congregation should be disbanded and their ministry ceased. Rather, it indicates that a typical, building-centric congregation (i.e., one congregation–one building–one clergy) is unlikely to be sustainable in that area, and that the congregation’s structure and its approach to ministry must be reconsidered and recreated in a different form. In such circumstances, a dedicated church building, with all its associated costs in money, time, and attention, may hinder rather that support ministry. In such circumstances, disposing of (or repurposing) a building may actually free up money, attention, and time, which might then be used to resource ministry. Hence, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has opened up a conversation with these four congregations about experimenting with creative ways to engage in ministry in an opportunity-challenged area.

To find out how your judicatory can obtain MapDash for Faith Communities and a Missional Opportunity Index, contact Ken Howard at [email protected]