CAT: Overall Priorities

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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 Where do we focus our energies to move ahead in this parish?  The CAT asked each respondent to rank seventeen different options in order of priority.  Before we look at our results, let’s see how the options are prioritized by typical mainline churches in the United States.  The options (in order of priority) for the typical mainline church in the US are:

 First—Develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to reach new people and incorporate them into the life of the church.

Second—Make necessary changes to attract families with children and youth to our church.

Third—Provide more opportunities for Christian education and spiritual formation at every age and stage of life.

Fourth— Develop ministries that work toward healing those broken by life circumstances.

Fifth—Develop the spiritual generosity of the people to financially support the ministry of the church.

Sixth—Strengthen the process by which members are called and equipped for ministry and leadership.

Seventh—Create more opportunities for people to form meaningful relationships (for example, small groups, nurtured friendships, shared meals, etc).

Eighth—Work to renew and revitalize the community around the church by building coalitions with partners.

Ninth—Expand outreach ministries that provide direct services to those living on the margins of society.

Tenth—Strengthen the management and support of persons in various ministries.

Eleventh—Deepen our sense of connection to God and one another through stronger worship services.

Twelfth—Strengthen the pastoral response of the church in serving people with special needs.

Thirteenth—Work as an advocate for social and institutional change so that society might better reflect the values of the kingdom of God.

Fourteenth—Adapt the opportunities provided by the church making them more accessible given the pace and schedule of my life.

Fifteenth—Change or improve the music of the church to deepen our worship experience.

Sixteenth—Expand the international mission of the church with both financial resources and personal involvement.

Seventeenth—Enlarge or improve the physical facilities of the church to expand or enhance our ministries.

 In previous posts I listed our top three priorities as indicated by your response to the CAT.  As a reminder they are:

 1.      Make necessary changes to attract families with children and youth to our church.

2.      Develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to reach new people and incorporate them into the life of the church.

3.      Enlarge or improve the physical facilities of the church to expand or enhance our ministries.

 I can list the remaining 14 priorities for our parish, but I don’t think that is important for this blog.  They are posted in the Important Documents on the St. Francis Web Site. Important for us to understand is that we ranked 12 of the priorities on average with the rankings made by typical mainline churches in the U.S.  This means that those twelve options we ranked at the same or with in plus or minus 1 or 2 rankings as found on the list above.  The remaining 5 options were either higher or lower than the typical average.  Let us now look at those differences.

 Enlarge or improve the physical facilities of the church is our third ranked priority.  As you can see above it is the last priority for most mainline churches.  I believe that this is a clear indication that our Building to Serve campaign is on the right track and in accordance with what the majority of the parishioners who responded to the CAT desire.  Our ranking of this option is “very high” compared to other mainline churches.  On the other end of the spectrum is the option to provide more opportunities for Christian education and spiritual formation, which we ranked number 9.   In the table above, you can see it is number 3, making it a “very low” priority for us as compared to other churches/parishes.  This can be because it is less important to us or (as I believe) this is already being performed at such a high level that additional energy is not required. 

 This leaves us with three options that are either lower or higher than average.  Two of the options are lower than average.  They are expanding outreach ministries that provide direct services to those living on the margins of society (#9 above) and deepen our sense of connection to God and one another through stronger worship services (#11 above).  Again, these may be lower priorities for us because they are less important or because they are already being performed at a very high level.  This will be something for our Strategic Planning Committee determine.  The last option, which is higher for us compared to other mainline churches, is to change or improve the music of the church to deepen our worship experience (#15 above).  Music is a very important part of worship and is worth a separate posting to discuss.  So,

 Until next time…

CAT: Critical Success Factors for Improving Satisfaction

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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Today I would like to think about what we can do to improve satisfaction in our parish.  It is painfully obvious to me since our sabbatical began that it is impossible to satisfy every parishioner, all the time.  In the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln, "You can please most of the people some of the time; some of the people most of the time;  but none of the people all of the time.”  So, what do we strive for?  I believe we should try to make all feel comfortable and welcome at St. Francis.  But that is what I believe.  What did the CAT reveal?

The critical success factors are what we might call “low-hanging fruit” that will bring about the most rapid move toward the transformational quadrant discussed in a previous Rumination.  The critical success factors for our parish are grouped around two broad categories:  Clergy and Leadership.  Leaders in our parish are those elected by the parish to the Vestry, those who chair committees or serve as lay leaders in particular ministry areas.  To summarize what is listed in the CAT, the success factors gather around communication, worship, and decision making.  The factors are presented on a scale ranging from urgent (address now) to important (address soon) to significant (discuss soon).

The good news is that none of the 10 critical success factors identified for our parish fall into the urgent part of the scale.  In fact, 9 of the 10 factors fall into the significant area of the scale.  While we will address all of the factors over the next several months, improving communication seems to be the best bet for moving us toward transformation.  I know you want to see what the factors actually look like, so I will list them in random order:  Resolve problems, Clergy makes things happen, Leaders seek input, Different decision approaches, Clergy brings out the best, Worship is excellent, Supported in ministry, Clergy communicates well, Friendly atmosphere and Clergy preaching relevant. Where they fall on the scale of priority is not as important as knowing where to act to achieve the best results.

In his book, The Naked Now, (Crossroad Publishing Co., 2009), Richard Rohr says, “You cannot start seeing or understanding anything if you start with “No.”  You have to start with a “Yes” of basic acceptance, which means not too quickly labeling, analyzing or categorizing things in or out, good or bad.  You have to leave the field open.”  I know it is tempting to look at these success factors and think, “Boy, was I ever right on what I wrote on the CAT survey.” or “Well, the other folks who participated in the CAT are obviously way off base.”  Please do not take that attitude.  Start with yes.  “Yes, the CAT results have proved effective in building transformational churches.”  “Yes, I accept that work must be done to channel our energy in a positive manner.”  “Yes, I am willing to work toward community and not divisiveness    .”  In the same book, Fr. Rohr also writes, “You must never start with a negative or begin with an attitude of “no.”  If you start with no, you usually get some form of no back.  If you start with yes, you are much more likely to get a yes back.”

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 During his visit with us, Canon Bolton reminded me that Strategic Planning was a good thing, but to always leave some room for the Holy Spirit to work.  Let’s try to find the positive things occurring in our parish and look for the Spirit’s presence in all that we do.

 Until next time…

Where Charity and Love Prevail

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

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I have been pondering and praying about this Rumination and wasn’t sure what or how to continue discussing the Congregation Assessment Tool (CAT) and our way ahead in the process. While saying morning prayers this morning (using the form found at https://www.missionstclare.com/) the Spirit spoke to me in the final hymn. The hymn on today’s morning prayers was Where Charity and Love Prevail, text Ubi Caritas and translated by Omer Westendorf. I though it very appropriate for the body of Christ here at St. Francis.

"Where charity and love prevail,
there God is ever found;
Brought here together by Christ's love,
by love are we thus bound.
With grateful joy and holy fear
Gods charity we learn;
Let us with heart and mind and soul
now love God in return.
Forgive we now each others faults
as we our faults confess;
And let us love each other well
in Christian holiness.
Let strife among us be unknown,
let all contention cease;
Be God's the glory that we seek,
be ours God's holy peace.
Let us recall that in our midst
dwells God's begotten Son;
As members of his body joined,
we are in Christ made one.
No race or creed can love exclude,
if honored be God's name;
Our family embraces all
whose Father is the same.”

Please take a minute to read and ponder this wonderful hymn, especially the lines about forgiveness and the cession of strife and contention. We are all pilgrims on the journey and each have different gifts, backgrounds and ideas. The CAT was the parish input into what we are doing right and what needs to change in order to continue to bring our Franciscan theology to our community at large.

As I said in the last Ruminations, your Vestry approved the formation of a Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) to explore the way ahead, based on your input from the CAT. Members of the Strategic Planning Committee are: Brittney Lightsey, Helen Nicholson, Deacon Pat Henderson, Barry Jenkins, Doug Smith and myself. The process we are using is called Operational Design and is a methodology used for strategic and conceptual planning. The methodology involves applying critical and creative thinking in order to solve problems in complex systems. (For more information on simple, complicated and complex systems see http://learningforsustainability.net/post/complicated-complex/). Design methodology involves a process called framing, where we attempt to describe in both narrative and picture the Current Environment, a vision of the Future Environment, the Problems preventing accomplishment of the vision and the Approach we will recommend to move forward. The members of the SPC do not have all the answers. As we identify a shortfall in our knowledge base, we will call in the resident experts in the parish or diocese to help us fill the knowledge gap. Once we have completed the environmental frames, we will present the information to the parish for additional input and to the Vestry for approval before continuing the process, so that everyone understands the vision of the future environment that we will use going forward.

I ask you to pray for the SPC and the strategic planning process, that God may guide our hearts and minds so that we may be a growing, loving part of the body of Christ and truly make all feel welcomed in our parish. In the words of the hymn: "Let us recall that in our midst dwells God's begotten Son; As members of his body joined, we are in Christ made one."

Blessings.

Your brother in Christ,

Jeff

More CAT Results

Fellow Franciscans,

 When I started to discuss the results of the CAT and our efforts to move into a better place, I thought that once a month would be sufficient.  I realize now that that is too slow to provide the information you deserve and want.  Therefore, I will be reporting on the CAT and our Strategic Planning efforts every other week.  So, here we go…

 In the last installment I discussed drivers of satisfaction and drivers of energy and what resonated with parishioners in these areas.  As I said last time, the levels of satisfaction and energy have been found to be reliable indicators of the health and vitality of a parish.  What does that really mean?

 The CAT results use four quadrants to display the results of satisfaction and energy.  The upper right quadrant is the high energy-low satisfaction quadrant and is called the chaos quadrant.  Churches in this quadrant are often struggling to structure and channel their energy into a direction about which they feel good.  The lower right quadrant is low energy-low satisfaction quadrant and is called the recovery quadrant. Churches in this quadrant require major changes in order to regain a significant level of vitality and health.  The bottom left quadrant is the low energy-high satisfaction quadrant is the called the static quadrant. Churches in this quadrant have normalized a low level of vitality in the church which enables them to be relatively satisfied.  The upper left quadrant is the high energy-high satisfaction quadrant and is called the transformation quadrant. Churches in this quadrant are sources of new meaning and purpose for their members. They may also serve as mentors to other churches.

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 Our CAT results place us in the chaos quadrant, as shown in this image.

In his book Owl Sight, Evidence-Based Discernment and the Promise of Organization Intelligence for Ministry, consultant and author J. Russell Crabtree describes the chaos quadrant as “churches with a number of distinct, rather autonomous centers of activity. The activities may center on a particular person, staff or lay, an internal ministry such as music or education, or an external ministry related to justice or evangelism.”  A parish is this quadrant has members that do not have allegiance to a larger or central vision.  As the parish leadership attempts to restore alignment to a central vision, they often face resistance.

 In order for us to move to the transformation quadrant, we have to address certain aspects of our parish life and organization.  My first year on the vestry, I asked about a Strategic Plan.  The answers I received, led me to understand that we (as a parish) had done little to vision how the future might unfold for us.  In separate meetings, about a month or two apart, two separate consultants recommended that we work on a Strategic Plan.  The Vestry agreed this was a necessary activity and formed the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) charged with creating a vision of the future based on our mission and values.  One of the first actions of the committee was to recommend a revised Mission and Values statement, which was subsequently approved by the Vestry.  (April 2019).  The Strategic Planning Committee is working on what our “way ahead” should be using the process of Operational Design.  We are not working in a vacuum.  As we finish our vision of the future environment, we will schedule a “Parish Hall” meeting (like a Town Hall meeting, but in our Parish Hall) to provide the parish at large an opportunity to provide additional input to the vision prior to formally presenting the product to the Vestry.  What is Operational Design you might ask?  For that you will have to wait for the next installment.

Blessings,

Jeffrey Hobaugh
Senior Warden
seniorwarden@stfrancismacon.org

Thanks and CAT Results

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

First, let me thank you all for your help and support in making the Shippen family’s last Sunday with  us a  memorable occasion.  The love you showed through both your presence and your generosity will allow them to keep a bit of our parish in their hearts as they move into this new chapter of their lives.

Second, thanks to all who gathered on Saturday to contribute to our Parish workday.  We accomplished a lot and made some new friends in the process.  If you didn’t get the opportunity participate in this event, we will certainly provide another opportunity in the fall.

Third, I will be leaving on a work trip on Tuesday, June 4th and will not be at any services between then and June 20th.  Fr. Ben returns on Saturday and will be celebrate Pentecost with you.  Don’t forget about the combined 10:00 AM service with a parish picnic to follow.  I will be with you in spirit.

Finally, I would like to share with you more of the Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT) results.  Based on our responses to the CAT, the folks at Holy Cow Consulting were able to identify those areas that are Drivers of Satisfaction and Drivers of Energy for St. Francis.  These are helpful to us, as leaders in the parish, to understand what is important to you in order to help us move towards where we as a parish community wish to be.  Generally, when asked how things are going in the parish, we do not consider the totality of ministries and qualities that characterize us.  Instead we focus on a relatively small number of things.  An analogy used in the CAT is "when persons are asked what they like about their car, they generally focus on a few things that vary depending upon the person. One person might focus on fuel economy and reliability. Another might focus on luxury and performance. Hardly any will focus on things like the exhaust system or brakes, even though those items are very important. In other words, they are very focused on some things, less focused on others.”

Based on our responses these are our “Drivers of Satisfaction:”

Degree of Focus

DRIVER#1:  Our Rector communicates with people in a way that keeps us informed and connected.
Very High

DRIVER#2:  The worship services at our church are exceptional in both quality and spiritual content.
High

DRIVER#3:  Our Rector helps us accomplish our mission by bringing out the best in everyone.
High

DRIVER#4:  In preaching, our Rector engages people with a message that enriches their lives in the world.
    High

DRIVER#5:  Our Rector articulates a clear vision for our church and keeps it before the people in a compelling way. High

The Degree of Focus indicates how important the driver is to our members in determining satisfaction within the parish

The “Driver’s of Energy” are:

Degree of Focus

DRIVER #1:  The worship services at our church are exceptional in both quality and spiritual content.
High

DRIVER#2:  The whole spirit in our congregation makes people want to get as involved as possible.
High

DRIVER#3:  Our Rector makes things happen.
High

DRIVER#4:  Problems between groups in this church are usually resolved through mutual effort.
High

DRIVER#5:  The leaders of our church show a genuine concern to know what people are thinking when decisions need to be made.
High

Again, the Degree of focus, indicates how important the driver is to our members in  determining energy within the parish.  

The levels of satisfaction and energy have been found to be reliable indicators of the health and vitality of a parish.  To find out what this means to us,  you will have to wait for the next installment.

Blessing,

Your Brother in Christ, Jeff

Jeffrey Hobaugh | Senior Warden | St. Francis Episcopal Parish.