Tools for Data-Grounded Discernment During Leadership Transition

By Katie Romano Griffin,
Faith Board Member and Associate Minister at Cedar Lane Church

Over time, all religious communities evolve to be more homogeneous. Mine is no exception. Leadership transitions, while often a time of grief and uncomfortable change for a congregation, are one of the best times for a congregation to realign its mission and purpose with the needs of the larger community and transform from what my colleague Abh Janamanchi calls a Sacred Society (closed to larger community needs) to a Holy Community (a place of love and holy experience connected to the greater community). 

In the midst of the pandemic (which is its own kind of transition process), our congregation engaged FaithX to help us with exploring our own strengths and weaknesses, along with the missional opportunities and challenges in the community we serve. For the latter, they introduced us to a tool called a Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report (or NMIR for short). As someone who has worked with congregations in transition on church growth, I can see how this tool could be useful on both sides of the transition process. 

From the congregation’s side, an NMIR can provide the interim minister and congregation with real data to begin to ask deeper questions about the congregation’s “why?” and provide insights into how it can be more Holy and less insular. This neutral platform provides a canvas for both the interim and the congregation to begin to paint together a new picture and a new future. If I were an interim, I would start working first with the Board/Lay leadership and present the NMIR data, and begin those deeper conversations there, narrowing down questions to engage the larger congregational body. Then we would branch out to Cottage Meetings, for deeper engagement, additional support, and congregational buy-in to both evaluate current programming and cast the vision for new programming that will take the congregation to new states of vitality and engagement moving in lock-step with the larger community.

As a minister with a marginalized identity who was in the search process a few short years ago, this kind of data would have been particularly helpful to me in answering some very important questions:

  • Will I have a community in this area that I am thinking of moving to? 
  • Is the congregation’s mission and vision already in touch with the needs of the larger community or is it out of step? 
  • Do the needs of the larger community reflect a ministry I would like to engage in with this congregation? 
  • What can this data tell me about the congregation that is not in its record and how can I use this information to begin to map out a plan to serve in this community? 

While I would have loved to begin my first year in a congregation that had already done this work, so that we could have built on it sooner rather than later, I am glad that we eventually did. We are transforming as a community as a result of our work with FaithX! Wherever you are in your journey as a Holy Community, whether you have an established ministry or are in transition, FaithX can help you build a relevant mission and vision as you navigate the transitions required in these challenging times. The NMIR is a perfect insight generator for congregations that are already missional/visionary and also for those who are stuck. You can’t argue with the data, but you can get curious about it and engage with it. Working from a data-informed perspective takes the heat off of the minister and lay leadership seeking to make changes, and puts the conversation back in the hands of the community in the form of wondering questions and potential opportunities. Getting started is as easy as a couple of clicks, starting here.