Assessments of ministry are often informal and subjective. The Building Blocks of Faith assessment tool provides a more objective way for churches to assess whether the changes they are making are having an effect.
Obstetricians use Apgar scores to quickly identify the health of newborn babies. This simple scoring system, in which we award 0, 1, or 2 points for each area we are assessing, allows people to look at complex data quickly and to report this data in a way that is easily understood. This type of assessment and scoring can offer suggestions for next steps as a congregation considers the faith formation health of their community.
Who should take this assessment?
This assessment can be given to your whole congregation, since it’s designed to evaluate programs for people of all ages. But you might also choose to administer it just to one part of the congregation, such as a youth group.
When should they take it?
The assessment should be given both before and after changes are made in your church’s faith formation efforts. The results can then be compared, to see if the changes were effective.
What can a congregation learn from the initial assessment?
The Building Blocks assessment can help your congregation identify themes to build on as well as challenges you are facing. Look at the data gathered, and ask questions such as
- What is the highest scoring statement?
- What is the lowest scoring statement?
- Do all the statements in one category score the same? Why or why not?
You can also compare the scores for subgroups in the congregation on each section, or even for each statement. For example, do older adults respond higher or lower to a certain statement than young adults do? What does that indicate about this congregation? Are the teens’ scores as high as the children’s? Is there a difference between the scores of the middle adults and the older adults? By comparing subgroups, you can identify possible areas of strength or weakness in your congregation’s ministries.
Another interesting way to look at the data is to count the number of people in the survey who marked a zero for each statement.
The leadership team of a church in Edmonton, Alberta, drew the Building Blocks chart on a large whiteboard. They then placed their assessment scores into the boxes for the appropriate age group. The team also added their current ministries into the boxes in the chart. When the team was asked if there were any revelations in the process, they responded that the assessment was more difficult to answer than they thought it would be, and most of them experienced a desire to answer for their entire demographic rather than just for themselves as individuals.
A Few Cautions
We don’t want to overstate what we can learn from this assessment.
- As yet we have little normative data. As Faith Formation Ministries receives more data from churches, we will better be able to determine if any one of a church’s scores is high or low in comparison with those of other churches.
- If the number of people who complete the assessment is small, a few scores that are different from most of the others could skew the data.
- Children’s scores are likely to be higher than adult scores because this is the only church the children know and the church, as it presently is, is part of their identity. We would expect that the overall feeling that children have toward the church would tend to raise (or lower) all of their scores. For example, if a child thinks, “I like church,” then all of his or her scores are likely to be higher.
- The true value of this assessment will come after your congregation has made some changes and then does another assessment so that the scores can be compared. Even then, there will be some variation in scores, depending on who participates in the second test. The comparison will not be perfect.
This tool is a work in progress. But for now, we hope that this assessment will at least give your congregation a new way to look at your church culture and help you think together about how to grow in faith.