Attract Families, More Money but keep it the same

For a little over a year now, the New England Synod has been using the CAT.

No not this kind of a cat.

Rather, the CAT as in Congregational Assessment Tool.

This resource was developed by Russ Crabtree, minister, author and now owner and chief consultat of HolyCow Consulting.

The Church Assessment Tool (CAT) is the only reliable benchmarked instrument designed to provide an in-depth look at the experiences, perceptions and aspirations of a church's congregation.  It is an essential step for any church in leadership transition or undertaking strategic planning.

The  CAT  is a customizable assessment instrument that can help you and your leadership team.

  • Measure the level of satisfaction and energy in the church you lead.
  • Identify the critical success factors for improving organizational climate.
  • Discover where members would like to go in the future.
  • Gauge readiness for change.
  • Uncover potential resources you may be missing.
  • Prepare for a search for your next pastor or priest.

In the New England Synod, we have been using it in two primary areas.  One is with congregations in the search process for a new pastor.  The second is with our Forward Leadership Community.

As we conduct the CAT, what do you think often emerges as the number one desire in our congregations?

Make necessary changes to attract families with children and youth to our church.

This is probably not a surprise, right?   Here is the other piece I hear from my conversations with people.  They also want those very same families with children and youth to be giving to the church at a high level.  Guess, what?  That ain't gonna happen.

Yesterday I was on the phone with the pastor of one of our healthier churches.  he told me that in the last year they've been receiving more and more families with children and youth.  As he gets to know these families, he's learning about their lives.  Their insanely busy schedules, their pressures at work and their financial crunch.  It's not unusual for him to hear about families with ridiculously high debt loads - largely from student loans, but also mortgages, car payments, etc.


In another conversation with a member of one of our congregations who was really griping at me about why his church isn't attracting young people.  by which he meant 30 or 40 somethings with kids.  He was being a bit obnoxious so I finally told him, what his church had to do.

- Change the worship service style and time and music

- Hire someone to do quality child care, or make the worship kid friendly.

- Tear out the old musty carpet that's in the entry way and replace it.

- Start some kind of ministry focused on helping families with the major challenges they face, like a simple grocery shopping service for single mom's, where the retired people pick up a list and money from the mom, and go shopping for her.

I then stopped before going on down the list, and looked at him.  He said, "well, we can't do that."

And I said, well sir, you can't have it both ways.  You can't want young families, and not be willing to make the effort to adjust what you are doing.


What the CAT does is test the man's statement "well, we can't do that."  He really meant to say, we won't do that.  the CAT gives the congregations leadership some concrete information.  It helps the leaders say to the congregation, look you all said in the CAT you wanted to make necessary changes to attract families with children and youth to our church.

Notice the phrase "make necessary changes" 

Here's the truth no one wants to admit. We all know we need to "make the necessary changes" but we are often unwilling to do the hard work or if we are willing, we know we need strength for the journey.

Make next article will be on the three styles of change we all possess.