A Tool for Learning About and Building Your Church’s Story

Ben Padgett is working with me and the Cabinet to improve our ability to motivate and equip our pastors and congregations. One of the things Ben has done is to develop the leadership potential of the North Alabama Conference Dashboard. I asked Ben to share his thoughts in this message. – Will Willimon

North Alabama Conference Dashboard
A Tool for Learning About and Building the Church Story

The North Alabama Conference Dashboard is a great new tool that our Conference has given us for leading the congregation in ministry. The Dashboard is a great way for pastors to tell the story of their church. As eyes fall upon the Dashboard numbers, a story comes to mind. The congregation knows the story and the Dashboard can prompt people to verbalize the story. If the Dashboard is left on a computer monitor and filled in only through obligation then the result may well be a report card with little or no positive application. However, the following is a step-by-step means of moving from report card to tool for knowing and using the story of a particular church.

Keep the church’s Dashboard numbers up to date by reporting every week.

Choose three to five persons from the congregation who will meet with the pastor at least once a week.

Three criteria for choosing these persons:

· They are interested in the purpose of their church.

· They will speak out.

· They know the story of their church.

The meeting:

· Begin with prayer. Request the Holy Spirit be present and guide those present.

· Provide each participant a print out of the latest Dashboard for the church. [NOTE: The Dashboard was created as an online tools and is best viewed on a computer in order to have full access to all the graphs.]

Describe each section of the Dashboard. If you are uncertain about how to do this you can make a copy of the instructions from the Conference web site and the group can learn together.

The pastor becomes the student.

The group is asked to look at the numbers and graphs and tell the pastor what story the numbers tell about their church.

The pastor, or a member of the group, jots notes as they discuss the story.

Each participant may see a different story represented by the numbers and it is important that all the stories be heard. There is no reason to attempt agreement; mutuality will develop as the story develops.

The pastor may share with the group that the story of the church is actually a collection of stories of the church. There are as many stories as there are members because there are that many perspectives.

The pastor’s leading is limited to convening the group and letting it be known that she wants to know the story of the church.

· Avoid interpreting the numbers for the members; let the group interpret the numbers for you.

· Avoid leading the conversation. Allow the group to do the talking.

· The pastor is seeking to be led rather than to lead.

· The pastor’s leadership is keeping the focus on the Dashboard story rather than the content of the story.

The movement of the process may be fast or slow but it is the same for either:

Does the story of the numbers describe that the church is being the church God desires them to be in their community?

· If “Yes” how shall we celebrate in the church and in the community?

· If “No” what needs to change?

This leads to actions to be considered by the elected leadership of the church and pastor. Remember, this group may share and suggest but only appropriate elected committees, councils, Boards, and Conferences can officially make changes.

· What needs to change?

· Who will be responsible for the changes?

· When and How will the church start the changes?

Develop means of keeping the membership involved and informed of the progress of the process.

Keep the numbers conversations going with the Dashboard each week.

Weekly attendance tells a story.

· This story is immediate and will become a portion of a trend.

· Talk about positive and negative change in the numbers.

Trend numbers may tell a very different story.

Changes are discussed in terms of:

· What happened at this point?

· How did the church respond?

· Have we recovered?

· How will we recover at this point?

· How will we keep this trend going?

· How can we grow this trend?

Keep the conversation going.

Pastor and group must meet and talk about the story.

· Pastor must use this as forming his or her vision.

· Church may use this in forming its vision.

This all falls under the United Methodist Church vision of “making disciples for the transformation of the world.”

Ben Padgett

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