Church Innovations’ Research

Church Innovations Institute combines numbers and narratives, all gathered in time-tested ways, to produce reports that your church can use to better understand its place, its culture, its people, and its neighbors.

What makes CI’s research different?

Since each local church is made up of and its actions influenced by its culture(s), we favor ethnographic research – a way of capturing the stories of the community (a local church, a judicatory body, or even a large organization) from insiders’ perspectives. Ethnographic actually means “putting a culture into writing.” If you don’t attend to the cultures in a congregation or other organization, trying to help it, move it, or even comfort it will most likely fail. At best you’ll produce some new plans, but they will likely never come alive.

Capturing cultures in stories effectively is labor-intensive, so most research organizations do not do it. But we learned in our early days that the people best suited to provide the details of the community’s stories and culture are its own members. So CI trains a small group of community members to be ethnographers. We call them Listening Leaders.

Listening Leaders interview use proven questions and select interviewees across a sociogram of the community. They learn how not to insert their own bias in the process. Each interviewee is in control of every response to every question and remains anonymous, but each knows the responses will be read and used by the church. This deep and accurate listening process produces more than just answers: it builds trust.

The interviewing work is deliberate and takes patience. It takes curiosity and thoughtfulness and time. When the Listening Leaders have finished, they share the responses with a CI reading team, who develop a written report back to the church or organization. It contains a summary of the responses as well as recommended questions to consider. When the report comes full circle and is verified by the Listening Leaders and the community’s members, our ethnography becomes applied ethnography. The result is deeper understanding and even more faithful curiosity.

To learn more about where ethnography fits in the big picture of research, click here.

We also use surveys for gathering certain kinds of information (we use an online site as well as paper copies to be able to serve all people). We have surveys that measure leadership gifts, effects of spiritual discernment, and vision for mission. Of course we conduct longitudinal surveys of the congregations we work with in the 3-5 year journey of Partnership for Missional Church. Results of our two successive ten-year longitudinal studies are available by clicking here.