As I continue this series of posts concerning five phases a church must go through in order to move toward and to remain in a place of strong health, let me remind you to please read each posting. The overall discussion of and the relationships between the phases will make much more sense! Remember to think in terms of the Olympic rings as one phase intersects with another.
Today I want to introduce and discuss the second phase. I call it Identification. It must be preceded by a strong assessment phase (phase 1) or it will be lacking and shallow. Therefore, only after the church has worked through an honest assessment and evaluation process such as I described in my last post, will leaders be ready to develop a current profile based on their findings. Identification is the final report or the conclusions discovered based on the thorough assessment that took place.
Some may call this phase simply part of or the final aspect of the assessment process and I am not going to argue too strongly with them. But I personally believe and have experienced in over 34 years of ministry that it is important to separate Identification out and call attention to it specifically as a next step due to its high significance. It is helpful to think of assessment as the actual research and data gathering and to think of the next phase of identification as the analysis and compilation of the assessment results.
Unfortunately, I have known far too many churches who conduct assessment but then it never leads to anything. There are no findings discussed, no further steps planned. What a waste! A healthy Identification phase leads the church to not only remember where it has been and recognize where it is now, but to use this knowledge as a basis for phase three action which will be the Vision Development.
Identification done well compiles a current profile for the church. It creates an understanding of and answers to qualitative questions of both being and purpose as well as the pathway to developing goals and objectives. Questions are answered such as: Who are we as a church? Where are we as a church? Who do we need to be? What do we need to know? What do we need to do? These answers provide a platform, a foundation, upon which action can be planned and implemented. To understand who you are as a church, where you fit into God’s plan for this time in this place for these people is crucial knowledge for church leaders and members.
It is helpful to put this profile in writing so it can be easily communicated, discussed and become a useful tool for the next phase. Helping the entire leadership team and congregation to be aware and fully understand this honest summary of reality can be vital. Once everyone knows who and where the church really is, they can begin to build and move forward in a united way that transcends simple opinion. The church can move beyond the questions of the past and often the polarization that they can sometimes bring. When everyone is on the same page from the beginning, planning and vision development can proceed in oneness. Healthy Assessment and Identification phases set the stage for biblical Vision Development. Watch for that next time!