What would remain of a church if all of its institutional buttressing were removed? A great wind blows and takes away the roof and the walls. The bookkeeper checks on accounts only to find that the last cent on reserve has been spent. Paid leaders and staff hang on as long as possible but eventually move on to other calls. What remains?
What would remain is a community of believers gathered in the name of Christ, enlivened and equipped by the Holy Spirit, worshipping and serving the Living God as best they can. Having survived the storm, some churches have discovered that rather than a death sentence, this turns out to be a good place to begin reimagining the church.
What would it look like to consider congregational ministry starting from a point of believers gathering in worship and service in the name of Christ and led by his Spirit?
Introducing Body Mapping?
Body mapping is an approach to consultation that provides a helpful way of understanding the church in terms of its relationships. In a traditional organizational consultation, a healthy and functional church will be able to describe its mission and the tools and resources it has to pursue that mission. But, in order for a church to implement that plan, it will also exhibit healthy relationships between members that provide access to the gifts, resources and goodwill needed to act in a coordinated way. When relational health within the church is furthered by missional awareness and healthy partnerships between the church and its organizational partners, anything is possible.
How does Body Mapping work?
Each congregation member will be asked to complete a brief online survey that will identify demographic information, participation and function in the congregation, and the significant relationships that define social engagement in the life of the church. This information is used to create an anonymized map of the congregational network which allows us to take a deeper look at what makes your congregation unique and how the body might be able to function better by focused improvements to its relational realities.
The goal of the consultation process which follows is to help congregations match traditional consultation insights with a growing awareness of the theologically charged relationships that hold the congregation together (Eph 4:1-6) and the skills to navigate that space. As the church reflects on each of the areas below and enacts recommendations, it not only begins to function better as a coordinated body but also develops “congregational intelligence” for long-term health, resilience and effectiveness.
1. Community composition (demographics, teams, groups, social clusters)
Develops the basic congregational map, illustrates distribution of demographics and church structures and naturally occurring communities. This phase is meant to introduce the concept of the network map and to give a basic understanding of the relational composition of the Body.
2. Community reach for formal leadership and informal key players
This report places formal (leadership) and informal (laity) within the context of the congregation’s relational network. Network analysis reveals key players whose relational importance to community function might not be identified with traditional roles. It can be particularly helpful to see how these key players might overlap (or not) with formal leadership roles and to compare their reach to the whole network.
3. Competencies, collaboration and change agency
If collaboration and teamwork within the congregation is of interest, this analysis can be particularly useful. It shows which groups (groups are defined per congregation by the pastor) are best positioned within the community to effect change, to access and act upon new ideas, and which groups are more and less likely to collaborate with one another.
4. Body awareness, skills and giftedness
This report takes the traditional spiritual gifts or skills inventory and turns it on its head. Instead of asking each respondent to describe themselves, it gauges awareness of gifts and skills distributed throughout the congregation. This report works particularly well when paired with teaching on the purpose of spiritual gifts for enabling the Body of Christ to function in coordinated diverse ministries.
5. Resources, opportunities & partnerships
Here we gauge respondents’ involvement in ministries outside the church and will map out potential sources of future organizational partnership for wider missional impact. This is also a helpful report for comparing official organizational partnerships with the congregational network of community involvement.
The Western Church is in a moment of institutional crisis. Some institutions have already crumbled, some are in the process of crumbling, some are figuring out ways to retool or repurpose their institution to match the stresses of the moment, and some are attempting to reimagine the church without considering institution at all. Whatever the case may be in your church, the only reason to fear institutional crisis is if the church is defined primarily as an institution. Scripture starts elsewhere and the good news for today’s church is that we can too.