Take this ten-item quiz to discover whether your faith community is undead
by Ken Howard
In case you haven’t noticed, Zombies are becoming more popular these days. Gone are the old-time Zombie movies with their slack-jawed, shuffling Zombies. Nowadays the Undead are appearing in Zombie action movies, Zombie romantic comedies, Zombie Bollywood flicks, even Zombie detective series on T.V.
Zombies have even made their way into business literature. Companies and non-profit organizations that are operating but not growing have come to be called Zombies, because they are in a state of limbo – not dead, yet not exactly alive either – and because they maintain their undead existence by draining resources away from healthy organizations.
So what about Zombie faith communities? Could there be congregations in which the individual members were alive, but the congregation as a whole was undead, having lost both the desire and the capacity to grow? It’s not just possible but true. By the standard just articulated, a significant portion of our faith communities (perhaps even a plurality) could be classified as Zombies. In fact, faith communities may be more at risk of becoming Zombies than other kinds of organizations, because they can blind themselves to their condition by convincing themselves that their lack of change and adaptation to new contexts is due to the strength of their traditions. And they can often maintain their undead existence for decades by consuming their own endowments and/or denominational resources that might otherwise go to healthier congregations.
Are you leading a Zombie faith community? Take this ten-question quiz and find out…
[Click here to take an online, self-scoring version of the quiz]
[Click here to download and take a PDF copy of the quiz]
- Your typical congregant thinks the purpose of your faith community is to minister to the congregation.
- True. The typical member of our congregation thinks the purpose of the faith community is to minister to them.
- Uncertain. I have no idea how the average congregant thinks about the purpose of our faith community.
- False. Most members of our congregation believes that our faith community exists not only to minister to them, but to the community and the world around us.
- Your faith community’s growth rate is lower than that of the zip code in which it is located.
- True. The community in which we are located is growing faster than our congregation.
- Uncertain. I do not know the growth rate of my congregation or the community.
- False. Our congregation is growing faster than the surrounding community.
- Your congregation’s social-cultural-demographic makeup roughly reflects that of the zip code in which it is located.
- True. The makeup of our congregation is similar to the makeup of the neighborhood.
- Uncertain. I don’t know how to answer this question.
- False. Our congregation is less diverse than the surrounding community.
- The make up of your faith community’s zip code is changing and your congregation is growing.
- True. Our neighborhood is in flux and our numbers are growing.
- Uncertain. I’m not at all sure how the two compare.
- False. Our neighborhood is changing and numbers are declining as long-time members leave (or die).
- Your faith community has an endowment.
- True. Our congregation has an unrestricted endowment that has been used for operating expenses.
- True. Our congregation has a restricted endowment that cannot be used for operating expenses.
- False. Our congregation has no endowment.
- The leadership board has done a demographic study of the faith community’s zip code in the last five years.
- True. Our leadership board has conducted a demographic study and verified it “on foot.”
- True. Our leadership board has conducted a demographic study but has not verified it.
- False. Our leadership board has not conducted a demographic study.
- The leadership board has asked itself why your faith community exists at least once in the last three years.
- True. Yup. I’ve heard that asked…answered, too.
- Uncertain. I don’t really know.
- False. I don’t think so. Why would they do that?
- The leadership board has asked why a ministry or program exists at least once in the last year.
- True. Indeed, the leadership board regularly asks that question.
- Uncertain. I don’t recall. Maybe it was at one of the leadership board meetings I missed.
- False. Wow! That would be awkward. I think not.
- The leadership board has purposefully allowed at least one program or ministry to end and reported to the congregation what they have learned from the experience within the last three years.
- True. Yes. I remember when they “retired” the [insert name here] committee.
- Uncertain. I couldn’t tell you.
- False. Not on my watch!
- The average active participant in the congregation can describe in one or two sentences the congregation’s vision/mission.
- True. Yes. I hear it at every worship service.
- Uncertain. I’m not sure.
- False. Nope. Don’t think I’ve ever heard it spoken. What was that slogan?