Landscape Survey

Executive Summary LANDSCAPE Results
for the
Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church (NIC UMC)
November 2015
Preface Overview
The Landscape tool was originally designed to address one particular goal: To help
mount a national effort to redevelop regional associations, i.e., annual conference, to
make them transformational organizations. In turn, these regional associations can
assist their congregations in the same effort – to become vital and healthy
organizations embracing and engaging effectively in the ministry of Christ in the
world. This particular goal has one strategic thrust: the enterprise of developing
healthy, vital congregations. The most important tasks of revitalization are:
 the articulation of clear vision,
 the development of strategic options, and
 the development of clergy and lay leadership.
It is this leadership that will, in turn, design and implement realignment of the
regional association system including organizational culture and structure -redefining what leaders value and do, restructuring revenue streams, reallocating
resources, reshaping communication processes and content.
The NIC UMC engaged the services of The Samaritan Center for Congregations and
Holy Cow! Consulting to implement a process for gathering data and information
about the health, well-being and effectiveness of the work of the annual conference
with its constituent groups. This organizational intelligence will be specifically
utilized for the purposes of on-going planning, strategic decision making and
The results of the tool were made available on October 1, 2015 to the Bishop and
steering committee members for this project and then presented to conference
leadership on October 10th for conversation and input. This document is an
Executive Summary of the findings.
Response Rate
We had 396 respondents representing two-thirds of clergy and one-third of lay
leaders representing all districts of the conference. This represents a 67% response
rate. This response rate ensures both valid/reliable data. This response enables us
to hear from and respond to a broad base of our conference. In this assessment we
also have some conversation partners. Our scores were compared to (benchmarked
against) scores of 30 regional associations of other mainline Protestant
denominations nationally. This gives us a relative apples-to-apples view in terms of
how we are doing in comparison to other regional associations. It is not an actual
apples-to-apples view because NIC UMC is the first United Methodist annual
conference to undertake this kind of study. The 30 other regional associations
represent the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, UCC and Moravian denominations.
The polity of the United Methodist denomination, its structure of governance, the
relationship of clergy to the annual conference (specifically our clergy appointment
practice), offers a unique circumstance.
What We Learned
*Energy and Satisfaction
High energy and high satisfaction organizations demonstrate qualities of
completeness, health, welfare, soundness, harmony, fun, the absence of agitation or
discord and where members experience a compelling purpose combined with high
engagement. Research has shown that these two factors alone are key indicators of
health and vitality.
Clergy reported 17% are satisfied with how things are in our annual conference;
Laity 26%. Clergy reported 19% are energized by what is happening in our annual
conference; Laity 26%. The majority of Clergy and Lay respondents (56%) are ‘on
the fence.’ On the fence indicates that respondents are satisfied with some aspects
of annual conference and dissatisfied with others; energized by some aspects and
de-energized by others. These results suggest that they are in a ‘waiting place’ to
see what will happen in the future. They present opportunity and challenge to the
conference – in that they could fall either way off the fence depending on future
strategies and actions.
These results indicate that in comparison with the other 30 regional associations in
the database, this annual conference has an overall low level of satisfaction and an
average level of energy. These comparative scores place our annual conference in
what is called the ‘Recovery’ quadrant of a map that charts vitality of organizational
systems. In comparison to the other regional associations, it might be expressed
that this annual conference has a corporate culture that is lacking in corporate zest
and common vision.
Recovery systems trend as organizations where any combination of factors has led
to an erosion of morale. Change is imperative in these systems. Recovering a
renewed and unifying sense of purpose, vision and supportive structure, and
clergy/lay leadership development are critical to its vitality and future. This annual
conference is not alone. Comparative data illustrates this is a difficult place in which
most regional associations find themselves.
*Drivers of Satisfaction and Energy
We learned what drives the overall satisfaction of the constituents of this annual
conference. These drivers are unique to every organization. Your constituents are
most satisfied when:
 The conference leadership has done a good job of developing a shared vision
that unites us.
 The whole spirit of our conference makes people want to get as involved as
 The conference staff and leadership are effective in recognizing trends in the
larger society and in helping us adapt in order to deal with those changes.
 The conference staff and leadership have been successful in helping
congregations like mine become more vital and effective.
 In general, Conference meetings are a good use of time and energy.
With over 50% of respondents either on the fence about their satisfaction or clearly
disagreeing that they are satisfied, the results indicate that these drivers of
satisfaction are the growing edges for our annual conference, requiring
improvement to reinvigorate health and vitality.
There are two drivers correlated to energy. Constituents are most energized when:
 The conference staff and leadership have been successful in helping
congregations like mine become more vital and effective.
 The whole spirit of our conference makes people want to get as involved as
These drivers of energy mirror those of satisfaction. This is not always the case for
all organizations. In this instance, there is great clarity on the two most important
factors influencing constituent satisfaction and energy – developing a spirit within
the annual conference that is unifying and assisting congregations in becoming
more effective and vital.
For Clergy the top drivers of satisfaction and of energy are:
 The conference leadership has done a good job of developing a shared vision
that unites us.
 The conference staff and leadership have been successful in helping
congregations become more vital and effective.
For lay leaders of congregations the clear and singular driver of satisfaction and
energy is:
 The conference staff and leadership have been successful in helping
congregations become more vital and effective.
*Priorities – Aspirations for the Future
This section of results tells us where our constituents would like us to place
additional attention, energy and resources. They are:
1. Equip Pastors and other leaders in congregations with strategies that enable
them to reach new members.
2. Equip local churches to be more effective in addressing problems affecting
their surrounding communities.
3. Equip Pastors and other leaders in congregations to help members become
growing, vital disciples.
There is a clear common thread among all priorities listed: Equipping both Clergy
and Lay leaders to do the adaptive work of congregational development and vitality.
*Performance Indices
The Landscape tool measures the performance of the Conference using
7different indices related to the role of a regional association. The assessment of
the annual conference overall is strongly determined by how the constituents
evaluation specific aspects of the work of its leaders. This pattern has long-term
implications for the strategic alignment of the annual conference leadership with
its congregations. The indices measured are:
 Conflict Management
 Engagement
 Morale
 Governance
 Collegiality
 Leadership
 Support to Congregations
The results are:
Conflict management measures the degree to which members believe that conflict is
appropriately managed, and where possible, resolved.
Clearly Agree
On the Fence
Clearly Disagree
Engagement is the degree to which members are informed, invited into and
supported in ministry.
Clearly Agree
On the Fence
Clearly Disagree
Morale is the positive, passionate, and persuasive engagement of members in the
mission and vision of the annual conference.
Clearly Agree
On the Fence
Clearly Disagree
Governance is the degree to which members believe the decision making structures
and processes of the annual conference are open to their concerns and input.
Clearly Agree
On the Fence
Clearly Disagree
Collegiality is the degree to which members feel collaboration and partnership with
annual conference leaders; welcoming spirit; sensitivity to cultural diversity.
Clearly Agree
On the Fence
Clearly Disagree
Leadership is the degree to which annual conference leadership develops a uniting
vision; effectiveness in helping congregations adapt to changing times; effectiveness
in meeting management.
Clearly Agree
On the Fence
Clearly Disagree
Support to Congregations is the degree to which the annual conference provides
policies/procedures; helps congregations become more effective; offers support in
times of challenge; provides effective resources.
Clearly Agree
On the Fence
Clearly Disagree
These results point to a disparity in the experience and perceptions between clergy
and lay leaders, and point to finding ways to understand what experiences are
behind these numbers in order to make informed decisions to improve our
Supplemental questions generated the following findings:
The majority of respondents (59%) believe the annual conference should not
continue in the same overall direction that is has in the recent past. This finding is
consistent with the results of the ‘Change Required’ index. Clearly, respondents are
seeking new directions that require changes in vision and action.
The annual conference is squarely ready to follow the lead of the Bishop and
leadership, and reports that communication is well done. Constituents report that
they have a general awareness of what is going on in the annual conference.
Compared to other regional associations, our overall awareness is very high. Our
opportunity is to move that awareness into more effective action.
With regard to financial giving and views on apportionments, according to
respondents we have learned:
1. Overall, respondents think their church’s financial giving to the annual
conference will increase next year. 58% staying the same; 12% lower; 25%
higher; and with some not knowing. This provides for an overall gain in
financial giving of 13%.
2. The greatest barriers to church’s financial commitment to the work of the
annual conference are (ranked in priority):
a. Members’ financial commitment to the church
b. Maintenance of facilities
c. Cost of clergy and staff compensation
d. Church debt
e. Lack of compelling vision of the Conference
f. Conference leadership
3. Individual/Personal financial generosity to church is most impacted by
(ranked in priority):
a. One’s sense of closeness to God (spiritual vitality)
b. A compelling mission/vision for the church/congregation
c. Personal financial situation
d. Strong clergy and lay leadership
e. Personal understanding of apportionment
4. The majority of churches have strong commitments to meeting their annual
apportionment – with 25% disagreeing.
5. Historically churches have built apportionments into their budgets – with
13% disagreeing.
6. 70% of churches have historically paid their apportionments in full.
7. In our current environment, the church’s financial situation, its
understanding of apportionments and the presence of strong local church
leadership are those factors that directly impact the commitment to
8. 38% of churches are not in a position to regularly meet their financial
Overall, these financial results demonstrate that what happens at the local church
level directly impacts the financial stability of the annual conference. Members’
closeness to God (spiritual vitality) and their understanding of and ownership in the
mission/vision/ministries of their congregation directly impact their financial
giving. And in turn, impact the financial stability of the annual conference as a
In conclusion, this annual conference can celebrate that its constituents care deeply
about their future. The challenges are strategic in nature. There is a compelling,
evidence-based case here for change that substantiates why our annual conference
cannot stay where it is. Clergy and laity alike desire to be better equipped as leaders
and better equipped to do effective ministry. This is a moment of rich opportunity
given the trust in following the Bishop and leadership into the future.