Survey of the Synod – Time for an Evaluation?

Many Districts encourage congregations to survey their members about the status of their congregation and the quality and character of their pastor’s work.  It is also common for congregations to conduct annual reviews of their pastors.  This too is encouraged by Districts.  Some of these surveys are meant to indicate if your congregation is “living” or “dying” or if your pastor is in “missional” or “maintenance” mode.

EvaluationSuch evaluations can often end up to be anecdotal and opinionated processes, developed with an agenda in mind.  A beneficial evaluation must be based upon the actual responsibilities and obligations of those to be evaluated. Congregations and pastors should be judged against the responsibilities given in the Scriptures and Confessions. They also should be evaluated based on the promises and obligations outlined in call documents, the rites of ordination or installation, and in our voluntary bond to one another as members of the Synod.  In that spirit,the following survey of the Synod and its elected servants is drawn from the Constitution of the Synod.  Since the District is the Synod in that locale, the survey questions are about the District and Circuit and their elected servants in which your congregation resides.

We invite you to take the survey, return here to comment on it, and suggest any additional questions for the survey.  Remember the guidelines for survey questions — they must be grounded in the objective responsibilities and obligations given to us in God’s Word and / or in our mutual promises spoken or written in our synod documents (handbook), hymnals and agendas.

To view the questions in our sample survey, click here.


Comments

Survey of the Synod – Time for an Evaluation? — 14 Comments

  1. Isn’t this another survey that ends up as an anecdotal and opinionated process, developed with an agenda in mind?  To be valid, survey samples need to be randomly selected.  BJS participants are nice folks, but they are hardly representative of the total LCMS spectrum.

  2. Dear BJS,
    Yes, is this a bit of “sarcasm” at all the other surveys? Another survey to tell you what? Just to get some upset, etc.?
    As I have found out with BJS, you never know…I am not good at picking up what is a joke, or for real.

  3. Color me embarrassed. The sarcasm was very well done and I should have picked it up. 🙁

  4. “Congregations and pastors should be judged against the responsibilities given in the Scriptures and Confessions.”

    Well, I, for one, see aging congregations who cannot afford a pastor and end up sharing one as they dump every nickel from the collection plate into the building and utility bills. Poor stewardship is not in keeping with the confessions or scriptures. This is maintenance mode, or even buying a nice, lined coffin for the congregation. It is not making disciples, carrying out the mission of the church. Again, not in keeping with the confessions or the scriptures.

    There are other congregations, younger ones, still keeping to themselves and focused only on closing the sanctuary doors behind them, facing the altar once a week. They don’t get involved with the neighborhood. Inside, it’s all Word and Sacrament, so that’s fine. They might even like to give money to charity and missions, better that than time. But they are not reaching out. Again, failing to reach out and make disciples, waiting for people to come in, is not in keeping with the confessions and scriptures. Our world has less respect than ever for Sundays and sacred spaces. they’re not coming to church, the church must be brought to them. Tough message for those who only want to receive or administer.

    Living one’s calling as a Christian takes a family effort, a community of faith encouraging, supporting, actively engaged in getting those in the congregation to live their lives in Christ. Again, the world is becoming more hostile and polarized. The answer is not for the church to withdraw into itself, it’s to go out. That is in keeping with the confessions and the scriptures.

    If the pastor is missional, it is because the congregation is in mission. If the pastor is in maintenance mode, it is because the congregation is not. Pastors carry out their charge in either case but the church does not consist only of pastors and their duties. too many people here cannot take criticism and act like the church is a fortress to protect Christians ignoring the fact that we walk out into a world held by a defeated Enemy.

  5. Why so hung up on surveys? While Rome burns, there are issues demanding attention. Pastors will have enough to do searching their own souls and seeking God’s direction in leading their congregations through the storms ahead, both legal and social. America has changed in one generation. Freedom of religion will no longer be guaranteed. Political correctness now trumps truth. Our media is filled with profanity, pornography, and anti-Christian bigotry. Gay Fascists and progressives are pushing for the financial ruin of Christian denominations by removal of Federal tax benefits from churches and Christian colleges. Using removal of Federal grants as a club, the Christian universities will be effectively put out of business. I cringed when some LCMS Pastors equivocated over the BSA issue involving gay tolerance, and still some will likely continue to support this organization even with pedaphiles in leadership. It is all disconcerting, but by all means….let us just be concerned about surveys instead.

  6. I took the survey, but I have one problem. My Circuit Visitor is absolutely great – a wonderful confessional man! My DP, in his own words, is something of a “cheerleader”. Answers to early questions are a bit conflicted

  7. BJS was conceived as “as an effort to rally Lutheran laymen to support sound teaching of the faith and as a financial backer of the largely popular radio and i-pod broadcast Issues, Etc.” (See “The Organization” tab above.)

    Time for an evaluation?

  8. @HL #4

    Well, I, for one, see aging congregations who cannot afford a pastor and end up sharing one as they dump every nickel from the collection plate into the building and utility bills. Poor stewardship is not in keeping with the confessions or scriptures. This is maintenance mode, or even buying a nice, lined coffin for the congregation.

    Aging congregations, often rural, may be in “maintenance mode” as is so scornfully stated.
    Do the aging no longer need/deserve pastoral care? (They may in fact need more of it than when they were young, raising children in the church, and running about “reaching the lost”.) They’ve done those things and supported the Pastor, the congregation and the synod, too. Now when they are in “needing mode” all anybody can think of is how to get rid of them! This is how the church “honors” its elders!

    “Close their churches! They can drive 20 miles to a town church”, [that holds all its auxiliary meetings (if not services, too!) at night when the older folks no longer feel safe driving.]

    “What have they done [for the bureaucracy] lately!?”

    “Let them die and decrease the surplus population!”
    [And so the town pastor doesn’t have unwelcome additions to his visitation list!]

    As God wills!
    I’m sure some of them would be happy
    if it was sooner rather than later!

  9. Most of the aging congregations, the really old ones, are in cities in our area. these are churches all built 19th century. They’ve seen successive generations of their children get priced out the local housing market or take white flight or seek greener pastures. Perfect example would be the congregation I grew up in. They are sharing a pastor with a church about 7 miles away in a neighboring town. The area used to support 6 LCMS congregations within that 7 mile radius. One is now a Hispanic Pentecostal church, one (which had the school my father went to as a child) was demolished and the congregation consolidated another 10 miles in a different direction, one was closed and sold to another group, one is sharing each Sunday with a Hispanic Pentecostal congregation who rents from them for midday services. There are now 3 parishes drawing from the same geographic area (two German, one Slovak), each worshiping 20-30 on a Sunday and paying upkeep on 3 properties and 3 parsonages inhabited by two pastors. This is not about transportation or throwing anyone out. It’s about resources and serving instead of clinging to the one thing they don’t need, property.

    Do they not deserve ministry? Of course they do! But things can be consolidated and no one needs to have building upkeep become and albatross around the neck of the church’s mission. If anything, they could receive far greater ministry if their tithes were put to use on ministry. I, personally, am in a more rural church and we cover a greater range of ages because people who were priced out of more urban housing markets or took white flight moved out this way since the riots in the ’60’s.

    I’m now 40 miles from that area. Our congregation is not large, but neither is the facility. We have land because, when it was built, the vision included a school and hall. But we never got that big. We’re still growing, thrifty, and we fit our area. There are a few mega churches out here but they are a completely different lot. The older, more traditional denoms (Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal) who did build large, have aging infrastructure and empty space because they worship about the same # as us on a Sunday. I network with the folks who do mission and outreach in these other churches and hear their stories. For what it’s worth, we have poor and elderly members that we drive to church and to the store and to the doctor. In other words, transportation is not an issue for a loving church in mission.

    Now, 20 miles to the next nearest church? I don’t live in a place with such low density. If I did, though, I’d have to wonder how there ever could have been more than a mission on the circuit because where would the draw to fill a church ever have been? Even when I travel west, those old farms are getting built on and turned into bedroom communities. There’s the harvest for a church in mission. Want to keep the old buildings? Fill them up.

  10. @HL #10

    Now, 20 miles to the next nearest church? I don’t live in a place with such low density. If I did, though, I’d have to wonder how there ever could have been more than a mission on the circuit because where would the draw to fill a church ever have been?

    20 miles to the nearest ‘anything’ is just down the road in Texas!
    [Unless you are getting old, your eyesight is not what it used to be and you really don’t feel safe driving after dark.]

    I know one church, in a small town (declining now), which was the “mother” to several of the churches in towns which have grown bigger over the years. Its original name and charter is in German; it was never a “mission” but the center of a Lutheran settlement.
    Having become small and “unprofitable”, district has wanted to be rid of this congregation for a long time. But where did our Lord say that His church was built to be “profitable” to a bureaucracy?
    [I seem to remember another attitude toward “moneychangers” in the temple.]

    In another part of Texas, there are right now, churches in several little towns, 20-30 miles apart. In their time of prosperity they probably averaged 100 members. Businesses have moved on, the population has dropped; children, if not their parents, have moved elsewhere for work.
    Since the churches never were very big, they didn’t build impressively in brick or stone, but even a modest structure requires some attention and so do the modest numbers of people.

    They are, as LWML used to say, “blooming where they are planted.” Some are even increasing their membership by ones and twos, minus the inevitable burials.

    Reality may be different where you are;
    one solution may not fit everywhere.

  11. @HL #10
    For what it’s worth, we have poor and elderly members that we drive to church and to the store and to the doctor.

    I’m glad that you are organized for helping members who need it! Not every congregation is, sad to say.

  12. The point is that any congregation ought to be so organized and together. If yours is not, why? What needs to be done? That’s where surveys do come in handy, to take a pulse. They are not perfect and they are not going to fix anything. But they can give you some ideas as to what is lacking and what is not. A congregation that is not caring for members while reaching out in mission to disciple and being a part of the community, is not a healthy congregation. it is not the church, as God intends the church to be.

    “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:11-13)

    We are equipped for action, to serve others, not to take in our own personal salvation and cultivate some private relationship with God alongside others in the pews. Aging congregations tend to be reduced to pastors and recipients – they are past teaching, not sending, and not calling to the lost.

  13. @HL #13

    Aging congregations tend to be reduced to pastors and recipients – they are past teaching, not sending, and not calling to the lost.

    And they aren’t living expensively in nursing homes either! Some Pastors will concede that the occupants of nursing homes deserve Word and Sacrament (once a month) but apparently you think it’s too much for those who are elderly but still able to remain in their own homes to have their church to go to.

    Why?
    They’ll be dead soon enough and then you can do as you like with the “property”!

    Jesus commented on Pharisees who deprived their parents “for missions”. They called it “korban” and He didn’t think much of it.

    [Where are your own parents, I wonder?]

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