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Assessment of Missional Communities – Philosophy

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?

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