We are reprinting this blog article, written by our good friend, Emily Swanson, president of Holy Cow! Consulting, which takes a deeper look into the importance of measuring congregational health.
When taking the Congregation Assessment Tool, we measure how satisfied members are in each congregation. While we might know generally what makes us happy, this look at satisfaction digs deeper. When we talk about satisfaction we are talking about that sense of peaceful contentment when we sit in the pews with each other and work alongside each other – it is that feeling of belonging, and lack of discord. It is important to understand why we look at this to measure the vitality of congregations.
The word “satisfaction” or “satisfy” gets mixed reviews in the Bible. The Psalms speak of satisfaction as a way that God connects to his people. In Psalm 90:14, the writer entreats “Satisfy us in the morning with your loving kindness that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalms 145:16 expands this thought to include other creatures: “You open your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
Other passages are not so sanguine. Paul sees the desire to satisfy others as an obstacle. “For do I now seek to satisfy men or God?” he asks in Galatians. As a tool of political expediency, we stray into the realm of the demonic. Mark tells us that “Pilate, wishing to satisfy the mob, released Barabbas for them, and after scourging Jesus handed Him over for crucifixion.”
In our experience, satisfaction in a church is rarely achieved by appealing to the mob, primarily because there are multiple mobs. In truth, we find that what satisfies one mob often alienates another. Satisfaction is achieved by fulfilling a mission that does not ignore human desires but transcends them. It succinctly answers the question “why do we do what we do the way we do it?” This is the satisfaction that is coveted as a primary goal in life to be achieved through a direct, frontal assault on the rest of the universe. It is its own reward. Also importantly, there is another kind of satisfaction that is a by-product of other activities, like happiness is a by-product and can never be achieved by “trying to be happy.” Churches that land in the transformation quadrant are generally filled with members who have clarity about a mission that transcends them and draws them into an alternative reality where the Gospel is plausible and compelling…and satisfying.