Congregation Assessment Tool (CAT) helps churches find clarity

March 03, 2019

Rev. Ryan Christenson, Interim Associate for Congregational Excellence recently spoke with the Iowa United Methodist Conference Communication’s team about how churches can use the Congregation Assessment Tool (CAT) to discover their current gifts and graces within their church and community.
“In the past few months we have done maybe 10 in churches that are experiencing known pastoral transitions,” said Rev. Christenson about how they have been helping churches by using CAT.
CAT has, in the past, been used as a tool to help churches who are in a highly conflicted state but recently Christenson and his team use it more as a way to help churches that have been identified as high priority by their District Superintendent and the Director of Congregational Excellence. 
“The CAT can help everybody just be clearer about the DNA of the church,” said Rev. Christenson. 
Christian works with Holy Cow! Consulting and the church's leadership by helping them prepare to take the CAT. The team identifies as many adult members and active non-members as possible to take a survey either online or through paper copies. After the assessment, Christenson works with the church leadership to unpack the results and define their next steps.

The CAT is a customizable assessment instrument that can help churches:

  • Measure the level of satisfaction and energy in the congregation.
  • Identify the critical success factors for improving organizational climate.
  • Pinpoint the strengths of your congregation’s culture.
  • Discover where members would like to go in the future.
  • Gauge readiness for change.
  • Uncover potential resources you may be missing.
  • Prepare for your next pastor 
“We have had anywhere from 44 to 101 percent of the church’s average worship attendance take the survey,” said Christenson about how congregations respond to the assessment.
After seeing the results of the survey, churches often get a “light bulb” moment Christenson remarked. The tool can tell from the results of the survey where people are focusing their attention. For example, he described a church that had some powerful ministries yet were pastor-focused. In order for the church to take these ministries to the next level, they had to change focus. The CAT helped the congregation see this and they were able to meet with the District Superintendent and Staff Pastor Parish Relationships Committee and work through the expectations they had of their pastor.
The Congregation Assessment Tool has been able to work hand-in-hand with another program within the Iowa Conference called the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI). 
After a church has taken the CAT, Christenson said, they are able to reflect ahead of time on specific areas given from the feedback they received from the results of their assessment because it is much more in-depth than the one given through the HCI process.
Through hands-on training with the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center and online training through Holy Cow! Consulting, Christenson has become the Iowa Conference CAT consultant and is able to administer the tool to churches. Beginning July 1, 2019, Christenson begins a new role as one of the new Associate Directors of Congregational Excellence with the Iowa Annual Conference where he will work directly with local congregations preparing them to be equipped to multiply.
Christenson said there was a “God-moment with Cedar Falls First. The CAT came back that they are excellent—among the top 10 or 15 percent in the country—at helping people discover and live out their giftedness in ministry.” He continued saying that the CAT affirmed that, “This church is a gift in helping people discover what God can do in their life.”
To get scheduled for a CAT consultation, contact your District Superintended or Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson. If it is beyond the teams capacity, you can also contact Diane McClanahan, Director of Leadership and Life and Spiritual Director at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center or go online to Holy Cow! Consulting.