In short, you will be assessing what should be done, what has been done, and what can be done. Specifically ask the following questions:
- Where should we be?
The basis for answering this question is your church purpose and God's design for the church. This is a reflection of your potential, not your current reality. You are stating what your priorities ought to be. In light of God's purpose and design for your church, zero in on what ministry you should be doing to accomplish God's purpose and the resources you will need to do it. Resources will include the right people with the gifts, abilities, passions, experience, and maturity for the various ministries, finances for possible salaries, training, and materials, and facilities that are the right size, decor, and location.
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- Where have we been?
Take a look at what you were doing at the time of the last assessment. Written records of your conclusions will be most helpful for memory's sake. Answering this question will enable you to see the progress you have made as you answer the next question. That should lead you to praise or penitence. Take some time to direct this response Godward. If you have not previously done a needs assessment, you will not be able to answer this question well.
- Where are we now?
List your current ministries and their effectiveness in fulfilling God's purpose and design for your church. Examine the adequacy of current resources to do the ministries you listed. You should gather both quantifiable and qualitative data. Quantifiable data could include attendance, growth rate, giving, and level of participation. Qualitative data could include how people feel about the ministry of the church, the effectiveness of your present programs, and the adequacy of current organizational structures, staff, and facilities.
- Where will we be if we keep going as we are now?
Here you are projecting ahead to what will happen if you make no significant changes in your ministry. You will be faced with accepting whether or not you are satisfied with this forecast (i.e. the rate of growth it will bring, how well needs will be met, how close you will come to the realization of God's purposes and priorities for you). If you are satisfied, you can stop the assessment. However, if you are like most churches, you will see the need for improvement. You will want to press onward and ask the final question.
- Where will we go from here?
In the final stages of needs assessment you draft a proposal based on your findings. You suggest goals that will enable you to better meet the needs which surfaced through the assessment. You also recommend strategies to accomplish those goals. This could include the initiation of new ministries and/or the elimination of current ministries. It may involve the addition or elimination of staff and volunteer workers. Perhaps workers need to be fit into ministry more suitable to their spiritual gifts, passions, and personalities. You may be looking at the refinement of organizational structures or programming.
Assessment is an Ongoing Process
After you have asked and answered these questions, the assessment process is completed for now. However, you should schedule regular assessments if you wish to keep progressing toward God's potential for your church.
While the assessment may have reached its end, the process for resultant change and growth has not. The conclusions of the assessment must be communicated and goals must be implemented. A means of following up on progress must be put in place.
In addition to this content the Staffing Ministry Manual includes suggested preparations and a process you might use to ask and answer each of the above questions as well as a form for recording your conclusions.