We love to learn about ourselves: discovering our preferences, seeing how these preferences overlap with those of other people, and figuring out what these preferences indicate about us, on a deep level. Even while we recognize that, not every quirk and characteristic can be defined by “What Chronicles of Narnia Character Are You?”, a fascination with personality metrics remains. So how can pastors leverage this trend to the advantage of their people?
In the past, churches have used two primary ways to gauge their members’ engagement: attendance (are people coming to church?) and tithing (are people financially giving to their local churches?). But during a year when the pews have sat empty and, for some churches, so have the offering plates, many pastors have struggled knowing how to define and measure engagement. Online viewer tallies can only reveal so much, and low tithing numbers may indicate more about the pandemic’s economic downturn than a member’s desire to give.
With the traditional guideposts obscured, pastors need new tools to help them see the people in their congregations clearly. That’s why Barna and Gloo have partnered to create the Barna ChurchPulse survey, which helps pastors measure the well-being of their congregants. Ignoring traditional attendance and giving metrics, the Barna ChurchPulse instead measures whether, and how much, each individual churchgoer is flourishing. And did we mention it’s completely free to use for church leaders?
A Clear Vision
Flourishing, as Peter Larson, psychologist and director of assessments at Gloo, explains it, refers to a broad range of dimensions in an individual’s life. Whether a person is flourishing depends upon their circumstances, yes, but also on their own perception of how their life is going. The Barna ChurchPulse asks congregants to take a short survey about themselves which provides their pastors with insight into both their circumstances and their subjective perception.
Gloo and Barna analysts noted five areas that determine flourishing: relationships, vocation, finances, health (physical and mental), and faith. They incorporated questions developed by Randy Frazee for the Christian Life Profile and others from the REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey, alongside questions of their own, to create the free Barna ChurchPulse assessment. Churchgoers’ answers to these questions help pastors sort them into one of six broad categories, or personas. As pastors gain a better understanding of the personas in their congregation, they are able to strategically tailor their ministries—whether program offerings or messages—to what is most relevant to their people. It’s a quick, easy-to-implement tool—the survey is just 26 questions and only takes a few minutes—that can help pastors identify where members of their flocks are on a spectrum of spiritual growth and then engage with those members in ways that help nurture that growth.
The Six Personas
The Flourishing person ranks positively across all dimensions of their assessment—relationships, vocation, finances, health, and faith. These individuals have strong faith and, according to research, are likely flourishing in the first four dimensions because they have prioritized their faith and active participation in a local church.
Trusting individuals rank high in all dimensions with the exception of finances. Despite facing financial challenges, they remain relatively positive and confident that financial hardship does not necessarily equate to an unfulfilling life.
These individuals have relatively high scores in all five dimensions, but also show they have some room to grow. Individuals aligned with the Growing persona are likely to have strong faith and an active spiritual life.
The Exploring persona consists of people who score high across all dimensions with the exception of faith. For Explorers, faith ranks consistently lower than their other four dimensions, indicating that these churchgoers may still be exploring what it means to place God at the center of their lives.
Those who align with the Unwavering persona rank several flourishing dimensions quite low, with the exception of faith. While these individuals may face tremendous personal challenges, they seem to remain spiritually steady.
People who identify with the Enduring persona scored low across all five life dimensions. It’s possible that these individuals are hard on themselves, or it could be that they are in deeply difficult seasons of life.
How can a free assessment like the Barna ChurchPulse help you not only know how your people are doing, but also help you better serve them? The beautiful thing about data-informed pastoring is this: it doesn’t exist at odds with your gut instincts or faith. It simply adds information for you to distill and discern your best next steps.
Imagine, for example, that you learn your congregation contains a great number of individuals who mirror the Unwavering persona, as well as another large group who align with the Exploring persona. Data now supports what your relationships and discipleship efforts are likely revealing: that many people in your church, as Unwavering individuals, see their lives as quite difficult, but they remain steady in their faith and spiritual convictions. You are now able to recognize that what they most need from you and their church community is encouragement and practical support.
Your Explorers, on the other hand, may benefit most from a simple New Testament study that walks them through the basics of how to study the Bible, maybe even a Theology 101 Zoom night.
You’ve got this, pastor. Barna and Gloo are here to help you communicate the benefits of the Barna ChurchPulse to your congregation, implement it simply, and engage with the results effectively. This year may be about as cloudy as they come, but we believe that clear vision is still possible for you. Measure what matters, and may the data you receive grow your confidence in pastoring to your people.