Saturday, January 21, 2006

Assessing Needs, Visioning, Hoping

Where there is no vision, the people perish
-- Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

Sue has a post about Needs Assessments which is worth reading.

This is something I have been thinking about often over the last couple of years. There is a great deal of value in groups taking time every 5 years or so to assess what they are doing/could be doing/should be doing/shouldn't be doing.

But it also strikes closer to home. How often do I stop to assess where I am? Um I think I did that last when doing the forms for Transfer and Settlement (as a legacy from our Methodist founders, United Church clergy are settled when first ordained or commissioned--which is sometimes a very unsettling process). More and more I am finding hints that God is calling me to look at what to do next, both for us as a family and within the church.

At the church, I have been gently pushing for a needs assessment process for a while now. Not actively or constantly but gently putting the idea out there every once in a while. I don't want to push it too hard as it has to be their/our choice, not mine, to enter such a self-study. In a week we have our Annual Meeting. During the service I intend to get table discussion about visioning during the sermon time (after some introductory/focussing remarks). THen it is my hope that during the meeting itself we can move beyond talking about "How do we connect? How do we make ourselves relevant?" and into something more active. A project comes to mind, although often such projects are inward, maintenance type things (new roof, insulation, new floor...) but an outreach project would be good. OR at least starting the process for a needs assessment of some sort. Doing the latter would come in handy when it comes time for us to move from here, as they will then be required to do one with PResbytery involvement as preparation to creating a job description and it is helpful to have done it more recently.


  1. Being involved in a visioning process, and being familiar with a needs assessment, i wonder if there is a bit of linguistic confusion here--maybe not. it is, after all, 7 AM, and any linguistic confusion is likely to be mine.

    That said, Gord,I wonder if what you're really looking at here is a visioning process, which is (in my opinion) a much more complete self-examination than a needs assessment.

    In visioning, there are exercises (esp. in the excellent UCC resource Discovering Mission) that help reveal who a congregation is by its values and goals. Often, there is a disconnect between who a congregation thinks it is and who it really is. Once the identity is known, then the activities may well suggest themselves. Proceed without such a self-examination, and one may well wind up with something that wastes time and energy, as it wasn't really needed after all.

    A needs assessment, on the other hand, simply tells you what a congregation wants ("More comfy pews for seniors", etc).

    I completely agree that a self-examination/visioning process is a great idea for us all, individually and collectively, every so often.

  2. Linguistically you may well be right Peter. BUt a needs assessment can, in my opinion, be about more than what the congregation wants. As I have used it I have included the necessity about trying to discern the needs of those who aren't here on a regular basis, the needs of the larger community, and the needs of RUC. That might move us into visioning--or maybe visioning needs to come first and then look at what our vision pushes us to do.