Surveys and 'Felt' vs 'Actual' Needs

As leaders in ministry, we are constantly grappling with what kinds offerings to make to those we minister to. How do we choose what get's made available in terms of elective classes or small group curriculum? What kinds of series do we preach? Should we choose based on the popularity of a topic...or maybe the off handed remark in the foyer last week about what's missing in our church? What should drive the ministry agenda in our churches?

I know that surveys are always one way to 'take the temperature' of our congregations and get feedback, but I'm not sure that a survey should be used for everything. They can give us good information about attendance trends, awareness of how people perceive that they are growing spiritually, and perhaps reveal some gaps in our overall ministry models or approaches. They can be very helpful in understanding progress toward vision and effectiveness of mission. I do worry, however, when we resort to using surveys to inform us what to preach or teach or have discussed in our small groups.

My take? I don't think that we are called as pastors and leaders in Christ's church to always just respond to 'felt' needs. I'm not saying that felt needs are irrelevant or don't need to be addressed. What I am saying is that sometimes 'feelings' can be unreliable. People don't always know what they need. As leaders - our job is to lead people toward what they actually need, not just cater to what they may feel their needs are at any given point. So let's be proactive and lead.
  • Let your mission, vision and values inform your decisions about sermon and group content.
    What is your church about? Where are you going as a church? What do you want to see for the next season? What are the non-negotiables that need to be covered year over year? The answers to these questions will provide more Biblical teaching content than you can likely cover in a year. Be strategic and prioritize what's most important, then go for it.
  • Learn to be intentional about connecting your teaching content with your mission, vision and values in your presentations.When it is applicable, take the opportunity to underscore your mission and vision while you are teaching on a text or topic. It has been said that vision leaks and this is also true of mission, so take every opportunity you can to refill the vision and mission tank. Also, application is a good part of your presentation to re-connect people with your core values. The values that drive the organization should also drive the application points in your teaching.
  • Listen to what people's felt needs are.
    Don't discount felt needs. Listen to what they are—then explain how that what you are intentionally offering will actually meet those needs, but also achieve the overall vision of the church and help to fulfill the mission.
 Those are some of my random thoughts. I'd love to hear some of yours!


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