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If the mantra “what you measure is what you value” is true, then we need to have a way to measure and assess the health and effectiveness of missional communities.  The series that follows will summarize how we assess missional communities at The Austin Stone.

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Coach Assessment of Missional Community

In addition to leaders self-assessing, we also add a second dimension to the assessment which comes from our pastors and coaches.  We have noticed that often times leaders will have either an overly optimistic understanding of the health of their group, or conversely they are a little too hard on themselves. 

In order to provide some balance and additional perspective, our leadership and coaches provide interpretation of those assessments. They also provide assessment of the stage of the group based on coaching conversations and group visits.

The coach evaluation is based on classifying groups into one of four categories:

  1. Community Group – an internally focused, bible study or fellowship driven group.  No evidence of mission.
  2. Small Group – a group that is serving together occasionally, but is not yet focused on making disciples
  3. Team of Missionaries – a group of individuals who are on mission to make disciples, but lack a cohesive pocket of people that they are intentionally seeking to reach.
  4. Missionary Team – a full-fledged incarnational/missional community with a defined pocket of people and communal practices that are oriented around lost people.

We don’t typically share the information above with groups, but use it as leaders and coaches to know what steps we need to take with communities and leaders.  This progression to help us know where we need to push on groups and where our leadership needs to invest time.

For more on coaching, you can find resources here.  For more on the data trends in missional communities, you can go here.

What have you found helpful in providing insight to your groups?

If the mantra “what you measure is what you value” is true, then we need to have a way to measure and assess the health and effectiveness of missional communities.  The series that follows will summarize how we assess missional communities at The Austin Stone.

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Leader Self-Assessment of Missional Community

The leader self-assessment was written to measure the values of the community.  We have four core values (Word, Prayer, Demonstrate, Declare), and the questions are getting to the heart of what the group truly values in their communal and missional life together.

You can find the assessment we have our leaders do in PDF form below:

MC Assessment Tool.pdf

In short, we are asking a series of quantitative and qualitative questions to gauge the overall health of the core values of a community, which provides us with a decent picture of how a leader sees their missional community.

The Heart Behind Assessment

To communicate assessment to our leaders, we always include the following:

There are two primary reasons that we want you to assess your group on an ongoing basis: so we can know how to better equip you to lead, and so that we can continue to strive together to more faithfully make disciples.

In the same way annual partnership renewal is an opportunity to both reflect on God’s grace in our lives to obey and to seek repentance for where we have fallen short, so too it is helpful to have a set of things to examine our own hearts and calling to lead.

Toward that end, this assessment is not a “checklist of righteousness”, but an opportunity to remind ourselves what God has called us to and how we can more fully depend on His grace to accomplish the vision he has given us. I pray that it is a tool that encourages you!

Additionally, we do our best to follow up personally after someone has completed an assessment to ensure they know we value their input.

What do we do with the data?

After you have completed assessments, it’s important that you actually do something with the data!  We track how groups change over time so we know where to focus our training for our leaders corporately.  You can see our data trends here.

As you’re considering assessments, what would you add?

If the mantra “what you measure is what you value” is true, then we need to have a way to measure and assess the health and effectiveness of missional communities.  The series that follows will summarize how we assess missional communities at The Austin Stone.

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Philosophy of Assessment

As our missional community team was thinking through how to assess missional communities, we grappled with a number of different questions.  How do you quantify a missional community? Why should we measure things at all? What things can we measure besides attendance at events?

I processing those questions and many more, we arrived at a few fundamental convictions.

First, we wanted to balance stories and metrics – stories encourage the soul, and metrics inform your strategy.  In order to gain both a subjective understanding of the community, as well as some objective measurements, we had to include stories and data.

Stories are encouraging, but are easily used as anecdotal justifications for something that may not really be working.  Data, without stories, is to easy to misinterpret or make say what you want it to say.Second, we wanted to involve pieces of self-assessment from the leader of a particular missional community, as well as outside assessment from a coach or an area pastor.

The second conviction we had was that we didn’t want to ask for data we wouldn’t use.  Nobody enjoys a long, meaningless, exhaustive survey, so we wouldn’t ask a question unless we really needed to know.  This drove us to ask questions that get to the level of understanding group values, and was simple enough to be completed in a short period of time.

Also, as we processed through assessment, we wanted to take the opportunity to not only do reporting, but recast vision for why we do what we do.  We made sure to always explain the heart behind our assessment, as well as stick with consistent language.

Finally, we wanted to have multiple perspectives involved, so we didn’t make poor judgements about our data or work from presumption.  Our strategy of assessment involves a leader survey every 6 months, coach assessments regularly, and thorough campus metrics yearly.

I’m a scientist by training, so good data sets are really important to me.  What do you measure as you lead or practice communities?