Introducing see::community – be::community

Posted on August 20, 2012


see::community – be::community

Realigning Mission through Ministry in Community:
Creating the Ministry Map on Vitality

Idea in brief

see::community – be::community is a process designed to engage our people at a new level in exploring which ministries connect them to their neighborhoods (or any place outside church walls), which ministries serve the church, and which ideas are coming to life as emerging ministries — all serving the mission of “transforming souls.” We believe it is through ministry that we are the most effective “evangelists,” creating a direct connection between community, vitality, and growth.

The big question for the future

How do we find opportunity for ministry in tough times? We should look at what is really breathing life into what we do as ministry today. What are the activities that make us want to leap out of bed each day? And how do we connect our church selves to those activities and other activities we know are needed? These are the important things to measure, and are what encourage us to seek opportunities to amplify our connection with our communities, spurring growth in an authentic, organic, and sustainable way.

Getting beyond the usual metrics

Earlier this year the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Shori, presiding bishop made the following statement:

“All of our structures and systems need to be shaped around partnership in God’s mission. They should facilitate, support, and expand that engagement. A lot of our current structures and systems focus on internal dynamics and regulation ... How might we begin to account for the coming reign of God in our midst and around us, or how adventuresome we are in dancing out into the world?”

So, what are we doing about measuring ministry and those served in the Diocese of California? see::community  be::community is beginning to take shape across the diocese. A few congregations have begun the process of looking at what they currently have for ministry and what they dream of for the future. This supports the appreciative notion that, “We do not describe the world we see, but we see the world we describe” (Joseph Jaworski). When we envision ourselves in the future with thriving ministries that serve the community, we create our own roadmap to those ministries.

How will people be involved?

So, how do we measure ministry? And how does this process work? We designed a meeting process to collect data that is inclusive and generative, incorporates both qualitative and quantitative methods, and where the process itself is transformative for those who participate. 

The road to data is designed to be engaging, meeting people where they are. There will be in-person meetings and an on-line survey — each will have a combination of subjective and objective data. With in-person meetings, the goal is to have people participate actively, telling their transformational stories to one another, and in the process gain deeper understanding of how they participate with each other and their communities. To this end, we created a scalable infrastructure:

  • An interview guide so that everyone goes through the same process, creating consistency
  • Training for a wide variety of facilitators to guide our various congregations through the process
  • “Toolkits” for facilitators so that once they are trained, they just need to show up and guide the meeting

Engagement happens on the individual level through conversation, and at a group level to share the stories they heard. The first thing people experience is paired interviews where they have the chance to share their stories of ministry and their dreams for ministry in the future with another person. (The interview guide gives people background and provides consistency for all groups).

The group comes together to share the stories they have heard. We create color-coded, visual “ministry maps,” reflecting how a particular group brings its ministries to the world: are they focused internally? Externally? A combination? Are new ideas emerging? How many people are involved in each ministry? How many people are served?

At the same time we also capture stories and quotes to create a complete visual history of conversations.

Closing the loop, an on-line survey will capture people who might be more comfortable sharing information individually or who could not be at an in-person meeting. Making sense of all the data we capture brings us to analysis.

Analysis — what do the data mean?

Analysis is where light bulbs come on. As we aggregate information, we will see themes and trends. We will be able to identify which activities in the community actually bring people into our congregations; then what are we doing to make them feel welcome and want to stay? The stories and survey data will highlight themes and clarify where we should invest (with both dollars and other support) to boost effective ministries. And most important, we will be able to see areas of and opportunities for collaboration within and across congregations — as well as with other community organizations. It is our personal connections that create true vitality. By getting to know one another better, we will get to know our communities in a new way.

Living into the future

In addition to our focus in the Diocese of California, others across the country will be thinking about how to do this work. Resolution A 010 passed at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church just held at the beginning of July in Indianapolis. The gist of A 010 is that measurement of ministries, who we serve, and how many we serve is as important as average Sunday attendance (ASA) and pledge income to gauge our success as church in the world. It’s time to dig deeper, and to ask ourselves, “What is it that connects us to the communities we want to invite to our tables? And to stay and celebrate with us?”

We have to get beyond the thinking that we just need to have more young families; what we really need to look at is, “How do our current activities as a church group answer the needs of our immediate surrounding community?” The answers will likely highlight the need for change. Then the real question is, are we ready for change that is necessary to be vital in the future even if that change means that church could look different in the future?

We are not ignoring our challenges; we are overcoming them by focusing on what we do well, and by getting outside our comfort zones to use what we know in different, creative ways. The see::community process invites all congregations to identify what is most vital about their past, and to figure out how to make those things relevant to both their current members and the communities around them today. This leads us to an understanding of how we can be::community in the way Christ taught us to be. 

Project Contacts:
Leslie Watson:
Mary Vargas:

Click here for the see::community — b::community web page.