Transformational Churches: New Scorecard Offers Better Measure of Spiritual Maturity

While no church is likely to ever say, “We’ve arrived!” when talking about their spiritual journey, there are churches happy to say, “We’re moving in the right direction!”

But how do you know where your church is spiritually if you have no means of measuring the issues that bring transformation to lives and communities? Fortunately, quality church assessment tools can help leaders identify strengths and weaknesses in your church and where your church is following Christ and living on mission.

Why use an assessment tool?

Assessment tools give churches a practical view of where they are and can inform next steps. They also allow leaders to learn what God is doing in other churches and to gain wisdom from those churches.

Church assessments can help your church focus on strengths and weaknesses and guide conversations about the important issues in your church as well as offering clarity to the church staff about where and how to lead the church.

While you can take your church through an assessment at any point in the year, there are key times in the life cycle of a church when an assessment would be beneficial. For instance, the kickoff of small groups or Sunday school classes and planning for the new year or an upcoming sermon series are all times when having a spiritual snapshot of your congregation is helpful.

Transformational churches

In 2012 hundreds of churches participated in LifeWay’s Transformational Church initiative, giving their congregations an accurate look at where they believe they are in their spiritual journey. LifeWay developed Transformational Church by surveying thousands of churches from multiple denominations that are leading examples of spiritual transformation providing a biblical framework for the Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT). This framework helps churches evaluate how they are doing with a new scorecard.

While this new scorecard measures the tangible – leadership training, worship attendance and number of people participating in some type of Bible study – it also measures the more intangible elements of church life.

The TCAT helps churches get an honest look at how their members perceive they are doing in relation to spiritual transformation. The results provide them with a snapshot of perceived strengths and perceived challenges based on the seven elements of a transformational church: missionary mentality, vibrant leadership, relational intentionality, prayerful dependence, worship, community and mission.

Before diving into the assessment tool, it is recommended to prepare your key leaders by reading Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer and watching the Transformation Church DVD. Some pastors have opted to take the entire church through a sermon series on the elements of a transformational church before taking the assessment.

When it comes to interpreting the results and determining next steps, churches have several options. They can work independently with their key leaders or in peer learning groups with other churches going through the TCAT allowing them to gain objective insights from each other.

Many churches find the most productive path is to work with a trained TCAT consultant who facilitates the discovery process to understand the strengths and challenges of the church, where God is already at work in the church, and where He’s leading them in the church’s spiritual transformation. Consultants are available through a church’s district, state convention or church network. Even with a trained TCAT consultant, it is essential that decisions and insights gained from the process come from within the body of the local church and not from an outside source. The consultant simply brings an objective outside perspective and a plan to walk through the process together.

Self-evaluation

Andrew Morgan, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Salisbury, Md., said one thing he appreciated about the TCAT was it is a self-evaluation, not a program.

“There was no one coming in making a judgment about who we are,” Morgan said. “We did that ourselves. The TCAT allowed us to look in a mirror and get a realistic picture of how we see ourselves as a church.”

He said one thing they learned is that while they considered themselves very much a family church and thought they were communicating that well to others, that may not have been the case.

“We saw that people outside our congregation may not have been getting that message,” he said. “We’ve been at our location long enough that we weren’t really communicating with the neighborhood, and they weren’t communicating with us. There wasn’t a problem or anything, we were all used to each other being there. That recognition is leading us to be more intentional about engaging our community.”

Consultants beneficial to success

Sergio Arce, who leads LifeWay’s Transformational Church consultant training said a consultant can be a helpful third party “who can look at the results with an unemotional and impartial eye and help the congregation understand how their perceptions will set the track they need to take toward spiritual transformation.”

River Cross Church in Gainesville, Fla., worked with Transformational Church consultant Susan Silvers. River Cross pastor David Patterson said Silvers was particularly crucial to their success.

“For the first time ever, we were able to see objective feedback on the effectiveness of our church, something that is difficult to see,” said Patterson.

He said Silvers coached him and other church leaders through the process of the TCAT and then helped them understand the results in preparation for the discovery retreat where 25 people discussed how to move their church to a place of spiritual growth.

“Afterwards she did an excellent job of following up with me as we put together some action plans … to improve our assimilation process to better connect and orient new attenders and members,” he wrote. “We have also improved our leadership development.”

“These churches are seeing significant movement toward spiritual growth,” Arce said. “One very positive thing we are hearing is how many churches are seeing that they are doing OK. They don’t need to make major changes; they just need to go ahead and do what they already know they need to do.”

Obviously, assessments are not flawless. However, when based on sound research, they can reveal weaknesses and blind spots local churches often don’t see. Churches willing to take a deeper look at themselves are no longer satisfied with just filling seats week after week, rather they are seeking change.

Said Arce: “This tool helps churches discover new ways to focus on helping people become more like Jesus; churches act more like the body of Christ; and communities reflect more of the Kingdom of God.”

This article reproduced with permission from Facts and Trends.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Polly House

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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What is Transformational Church?

People sometimes ask me about Transformational Church (TC), particularly after I mention it on Twitter as I did last week. I was talking about our TC Brasil project, as we are doing the TC research there.

So, here is a quick overview.

What:

Transformational Church and the TCAT (Transformational Church Assessment Tool) were designed to give churches tools to keep their focus on the biblical principles and guidelines for being the church while at the same time providing guidance on how to help them engage their culture and grow their church.

Transformational Church is a hopeful message:

  1. Because it relates to churches regardless of size or location
  2. It keeps the focus on the biblical expectations of the church without ignoring practical and contextual expressions
  3. We are seeing local churches learning that they can as a body of believers discern God’s direction and follow His leading in their local context.

 

When:

Our God is a transforming God. Anytime He is Lord of someone’s heart and life, transformation occurs. The same is true for the local church. We have found that there are certain seasons of a church’s life when they may be more open to seeking out God and allowing this transformation to begin and take hold.

Here are a few we have seen:

  • Vision Casting– pastors and leaders helping keep the focus of of the people reaching up and out rather than inward.
  • Transition– pastor and staff turnover; community demographics changing. Frankly, anytime the people sense that they are losing “control” is a great opportunity to give it back to God.
  • Crisis– when the pain of the status quo is too much.

 

Why:

If churches aren’t seeing the transformation they want (or want to see it at a greater level), this tools helps them define reality and then press forward with a plan together. TC helps churches understand 1) what biblical churches focus on, and 2) where they can start.

How:

Real transformation isn’t something that we can schedule, but it is something we can recognize. Church leaders can begin by leading their key leaders (staff and volunteer) through the Transformational Church book and leadership DVD. Taking the time to teach your people the biblical basis and matrix for thinking about being a transformational church.

Take the assessment. Find out where you are so you know where to begin. Every church has things she can celebrate and things she needs to work on. The TCAT isn’t a pass/fail assessment but rather a tool to help clarify where a current church is, what can be celebrated, and where they can make improvements.

Use the book. The Transformational Church book is provided for churches and leaders to work through together– evaluating where they are and where they need to go.

As I have written before, it is built on some incredibly simple and biblical ideas.

Incredibly Biblical Idea #1: Transformation. This is what happens when God gets hold of the life of an everyday person. He transforms them with the gospel. Every thought and action begins to change. Values and attitudes change. And people notice. They change from living for self to dying to self. Soon, life focuses solely on the mission of Christ.
Incredibly Biblical Idea #2: The Local Church. I believe in the church because of her Lord. It is the gathering of transformed people to hear the gospel, worship, and then scatter to participate in God’s mission. The church is God’s chosen instrument to spread the gospel. It is His people engaged in His mission to carry His message into their culture and every culture. The local church is not an antiquated idea but a necessity in our day.

And when these two words are combined using God’s perspective on and involvement in them both, then you have something even more compelling. And that is what happened when we discovered the principles included in Transformational Church.

 

It is simple. What we’re trying to do is help churches engage God’s mission more faithfully to see the transformation of individual lives through the proclamation of the Gospel, the transformation of churches as they join God on mission and the transformation of communities so that the name and fame of Jesus might be more widely known.

For more information, go to www.transformationalchurch.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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8 Measures of Personal Discipleship

In 2008, LifeWay Research commissioned a survey of more than 7,000 churches to discover the principles involved with healthy congregations. That research made up the framework for Transformational Church, a book I coauthored with Thom Rainer.

In 2011, we conducted another study to focus not on the church, but on the individual believer. In this study, we asked more than 4,000 people about their spiritual lives and level of maturity. This was not a convenience sample drawn from participating churches, but a randomly selected sample to ensure an even higher level of research accuracy.

The results allowed us to identify eight Biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer. Those “attributes of discipleship” are:

  1. Bible engagement
  2. Obeying God and denying self
  3. Serving God and others
  4. Sharing Christ
  5. Exercising faith
  6. Seeking God
  7. Building relationships
  8. Unashamed transparency

 

Spiritual growth does not happen by accident, and since Jesus has called us to make disciples of all nations, we wanted to discover the common traits for those maturing in their faith. It goes without saying that such attributes do not make you a Chrisitan but, rather, are an outgrowth of being a Christian. Furthermore, these are measurements of growth, but only God causes the growth.

Yet, God shapes congregations through the shaping of the individual members’ lives. This shaping doesn’t just happen; God grows us as we place ourselves in a position of obedience to receive that growth. This requires intentional awareness and leadership on the part of both leaders and church members.

Preparing your church to receive the growth God provides almost always involves knowing where your people are in their spiritual walk. To help pastors, churches and individuals measure their spiritual development, we used the survey data to develop the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). The assessment results in a report on spiritual maturity using the eight attributes of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides helpful and practical suggestions for individuals to take the next steps in their spiritual development.

TDA

I’ll be releasing more information about the specific factors later in the fall. Due to the sheer volume of material, however, it will take several months to complete our analysis and release all of the materials.

Here is some more information from the news release:

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said the new assessment tool zooms in to the personal level.”The Transformational Discipleship Assessment helps people see how they are doing with those eight attributes. It answers, ‘Are you growing? Are you consistently following Christ?'” McConnell explained. “It also helps leaders know where to focus sermons, Bible studies, events and other disciple-building activities.”

McConnell said the research was conducted in three phases. First recognized discipleship experts were interviewed. Their input was used to revise a set of questions that have been effective in measuring dozens of specific biblical principles that may be reflected in a believers actions, attitudes or beliefs. Then 1,000 Protestant pastors in the United States were polled. In the final phase, more than 4,000 Protestants from both the U.S. and Canada were surveyed in three languages, English, Spanish and French.

What have been some of the key ways in which your church has been effective in the discipleship of believers?

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.