Work avoidance. It’s a term used in some of the leadership articles I’ve been reading to describe the temptation to either:
- Avoid dealing with a problem; or
- Deal with a problem by attempting to find a magic bullet.
I don’t want to be a work avoider – and I don’t want my church to avoid the hard job of change. So, it’s a pleasure to be a part of a parish with a Rector (Andrew) doing some hard thinking about effective, sustainable change for the better. He recently spoke to me about the book Breakout Churches by Thom Rainer. So I borrowed it from the library and have been having a read. Rainer’s research indicates that churches that experience breakout growth have found the sweet-spot at the intersection of leadership passion, congregational gifts/passions, and community need.
So, here’s the plug*:
Here in Australia, we have some of the best resources available to churches anywhere in the world to help us reflect on and discover these three things. NCLS Research provides three key sets of resources that exactly match Rainer’s categories.
Lead With Your Strengths: based on research with 10,000 Australian church leaders, this book identifies the key leadership strengths of leaders in healthy churches. There’s an online survey and a workbook available to help you reflect on your own strengths and those of your team.
Church Life Surveys and Profile: in 2006 7,000 churches from 22 denominations took part in the National Church Life Survey (what an extraordinary ecumenical exercise!). Over the 20 years they have run the NCLS, researchers here have derived 9 key indicators of church health and vitality. The 2006 Church Life Profiles, based on your survey results, show you which areas your church is strongest in and give you a wealth of data about your congregation. [Download sample profile]
As a researcher what really excites me about these two resources is that the strengths and core qualities have been derived from the data not imposed on it. The third resource I helped create:
Community Connections Resources: NCLS Research has been releasing customised reports on the community around churches for 15 years. This year, the report is better that ever before. It contains maps as well as charts and tables. It has summary diagrams for the statistical novice. It has lots of detail for those who want to dig deeper. There’s a workbook specifically for churches to help them engage with the data about their local community.
These resources are not magic bullets. They do not provide easy answers or tell you what you should do. They won’t help you avoid the hard work of figuring out the ‘sweet-spot’ in your particular context.
But they do provide you with the springboard to start facing the brutal facts with hope. They do give you the evidence you need to make good decisions. They will help you reflect on where/what your ‘sweet-spot’ might be. They will work if you are prepared to do the work too.
*NB: I’ve worked with the NCLS Research team. I might be biased. But I’ve seen the research they do, and it rocks. They are a gift to the Australian church. The primary sponsors of the co-operative venture that is NCLS Research, The Anglican Diocese of Sydney, The Uniting Church NSW Board of Mission, and The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, deserve a massive pat on the back for being visionary enough to see the value and power of credible research and sustaining the work NCLS Research does.