Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Congregational Vitality Assessment (CVA)
Q. What is the purpose/benefits of the Congregational Vitality Assessment (or CVA)?
A. The Congregational Vitality Assessment is designed to help a congregation
- Diagnose its Vitality and Sustainability
- Identify its strengths and weaknesses
- Develop and prioritize strategies to address them
Q. What is the difference between a congregation’s Vitality and its Sustainability?
- Vitality: Is the congregation thriving, surviving, or declining?
- Sustainability: Does the congregation have the people, financial, and contextual resources necessary to survive and thrive?
Q. What elements of Vitality does the CVA measure?
A. The CVA measures how effectively a congregation is carrying out ten vital areas of congregational functioning:
- Vision, Mission, & Discernment
- Lay Engagement & Empowerment
- Context Awareness & Inclusion
- Change Readiness
- Dealing with Differences/Conflict
- Spiritual Life & Worship
- Formation, Education, & Training
- Leadership & Organization
Q. What elements of Sustainability does the CVA measure?
A. The CVA measures two important aspects of congregational functioning:
- Internal Sustainability: Whether the congregation has sufficient internal resources (people, financial, and other) to survive, thrive, and carry out its mission.
- External Sustainability: Whether the neighborhoods the congregations serves have sufficient resources (people, financial, and other) to sustain a typical congregation.
Q. How is the CVA best administered (what are best practices)?
A. Best results are obtained by administering the CVA to a representative subset of the congregation. However, key leaders may want to take the CVA first in order to be able to better explain to the representative group what the experience of taking it is like.
We do not recommend administering the CVA to the entire congregation, as it tends to skew the results in several ways: not just regression to the mean, but because a congregation-wide administration of the CVA generally results in a non-representative sample: more Boomers and older GenX-ers and fewer Millennials and GenZ-ers, more insiders and fewer newcomers, fewer financially challenged people, etc.
To determine what your representative sample should look like: (a) study the makeup of your congregation, (b) start with a core group composed of vestry, committee chair, and committee members as the core of the group, (c) then determine which groups are under-represented and invite them, (d) make sure each person gets a personal invitation from a member of leadership explaining why you need their input specifically.
Q. What makes the CVA unique?
A. Prescriptive professional analysis tools for congregational life have been around in many forms for a while, and offer congregations concrete ways to view their mission, ministry, and corporate life together. However, no other vitality assessment tool to date is as thoroughly grounded in research and data, and most come with high price tags that are cost prohibitive for many communities of faith to use.
Q. Why are FaithX and ECF making the CVA available free? Are there any strings attached?
A. FaithX and ECF view congregational vitality to be the paramount issue for faith communities today. Unfortunately, those congregations who need the most help addressing their vitality issues are the ones who can least afford it. Free access to the CVA is one way we are trying to address that need. There are no strings attached. Of course, since both FaithX and ECF offer consultative services, we hope you will keep us in mind if you them. Faithx will offer a 10% discount on services to any congregation that has taken the CVA.
Q. What kind of questions does the CVA ask?
A. The CVA asks the user to answer 5-10 question in each of 12 areas of congregational life: 10 focused on vitality and 2 on sustainability (example below or click on image for full question set).
Q. What do CVA results look like?
A. When the individual or team has completed the CVA, the answers are scored, and the individual or team leader then receives summary scores of each of the ten vitality areas and two sustainability areas, along with suggestions of ways to improve in each of the areas (example below or click on image for complete sample report).
Q. How should we interpret our congregations scores?
A. CVA diagnostic ratings are based on a criterion-referenced (not on a curve) 1-4 scale:
- 3-4: High
- 2-3: Moderate
- 1-2: Low
Q. What are research sources on which the CVA is grounded?
A. Click here to review the research sources.
Q. Why does the CVA give rate lower congregations that have an endowment and use it for operating expenses? What’s wrong with that?
A. All CVA questions are grounded in research, and research suggests that using an endowment to underwrite operating expenses (including ongoing outreach) negatively affects individual and congregational stewardship over the long term. Endowments aren’t forever. That means that congregations that grow dependent on them are much more likely drive off the proverbial cliff when the money runs out.
Q. How often is the CVA updated based on new research and user feedback?
A. The CVA is updated at the end of any year in which vitality-related research is newly released or user feedback results in changes. For example, user feedback as so far led to:
- CVA Version 2.O (release date: mid-July): redesigned user interface, added section on “External Sustainability,” back-end improvements to support research and benchmarking, bug fixes.
- CVA Judicatory Version (launch date: mid-July): developed at request of multiple users, a subscription-based customized dashboard that allows, dioceses, synods, districts, and other judicatory bodies to administer the CVA to their congregations, add supplemental (non-rated) questions of their own, and have access to summarized results from all of their congregations.
- CVA Version 2.1 (release date: Sept 2021): Spanish-language option, vitality improvement resources linked to scores/recommendations, new denomination-specific options.
We invite our users to notify us of new research or ideas for improvement at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What should our congregation do after taking the CVA?
A. There are several things a congregation can do after taking the CVA. These include:
- Review CVA results and recommendations with congregational leadership and with the congregation. Identify your congregation’s 2-3 areas of greatest vitality strength and 2-3 areas of greatest vitality weakness.
- Conduct a demographic assessment of the missional opportunities and challenges in community your congregation serves. Identify the 2-3 greatest missional opportunities and the 2-3 greatest missional challenges.
- Find consensus around greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. Select 1-2 of each.
- Identify the areas of congregational vitality strength that you can leverage to effectively engage missional opportunities and challenges in the community, and to effectively address areas of congregational vitality weakness.
- Identify strategies to engage identified community opportunities and challenges, and address identified areas of vitality.
- Determine which strategies you feel capable pursuing yourselves and which you might need help with.
- Implement strategies. Start small, experiment, build on successes.
The above process is what we call a Missional Assessment. You can do it yourselves or you can engage FaithX to lead you through it (we meet with your congregational leader in four sessions over a 6-8 week period to guide you through the process).
Contact us at email@example.com for more information or to schedule a free 30-min discussion to weigh your alternatives.