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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Measuring Our Apgar at Redeemer

On the new Pittsburgh Advance blog, Canon Mary Hays a few weeks ago featured a Christianity Today article, Your Church’s Apgar,here on measuring church health. It piqued my interest. I was much impressed with the author Kevin Miller’s development of a scale to measure congregational health much like the Apgar scale used to measure the health and viability of newborn babies. So I asked the church staff and the vestry read the article and then go-online and take the Church Apgar Assessment Survey here. That being done, we discussed our findings at the staff meeting on October 10 and the vestry meeting October 15 respectively. On a scale of 1 to 10 Miller suggests any score above 7.0 indicates a healthy church. A score of 3.5 or less indicates an unhealthy church and any score greater than 3.5 or less than 7.0 indicates a moderately healthy church.

Our staff of five averaged 4.7 with highs of 5.5 and lows of 4.0. The vestry of seven averaged 6.2 with highs of 7.5 and lows of 5.0. Taken together the combined lay and clergy leadership then averaged 5.45. A few observations: 1.) the everyday workers (the staff --which are three-fifths clergy) have a less rosy opinion of the overall health of the church than the elected lay leadership (the vestry), 2.) Both the vestry and lay leadership identified areas of concern that needed improvement and areas of successful ministry, 3.) Both groups recognized the overwhelming change the congregation has experienced in the past 18 months as the major factor that has affected all areas of congregational life.

Using the Acts 2:42-47 passage as the measure of health the vestry divided church life in the four components of the text and ranked them: the Apostle’s teaching, the breaking of the bread, fellowship and the prayers. The vestry identified parish teaching as one of the strongest areas of Redeemer Parish. We have learned lay and clergy teachers and a solid history of adult education and bible study. Interestingly the teaching this past week in our Sunday Adult Ed class led by lay teacher Kathy Bushyager and based on a DVD series by church planter, teacher and pastor Tim Keller called Gospel in Life – it’s an awesome series and I highly recommend using it --- was based directly on Acts 2:42-47.

We have many avenues for congregational prayer: Altar prayer ministry, intercessory prayer, monthly healing services, and the internet prayer chain all come to mind. Fellowship and the breaking of the bread (which we defined as large group congregational meals and gatherings such as potlucks, parish picnics, parish overnight retreats, etc.) were areas that have suffered in the realignment and relinquishment era that we’ve just been through. The vestry also agreed with me that the establishment of a viable small group ministry situated in the neighborhoods where our members live would help meet the fellowship and breaking of the bread need and improve our overall congregational health. The groups would also serve as the embryonic units for planting new churches throughout the South Hills. This was the charge Archbishop Duncan laid before us when he pronounced the formation of the Anglican Parish of Christ the Redeemer in the South Hills on March 25.

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