Thoughts on the REVEAL Study

New Life just completed the REVEAL Study, made available by the folks at Willow Creek.  In short, REVEAL is a tool for spiritual self-assessment that also indicates to churches how they can improve in fostering spiritual formation in their congregations.

Generally, 30-35% of a congregation take the 30-35 minute survey, and the results help indicate the spiritual vitality of a church. I think this is how it works.  You can click on the link above to read more about it.

I’m not sure if 35% of our people took it (We were looking for about 300 adult surveys), but after talking to some folks who took the survey, I thought I’d post some of my own thoughts.

I have no idea what our results will look like, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m thankful for all the hard work that Willow Creek has done to serve and resource leaders.

With that said, here are some reflections about the survey (I took it 3 weeks ago so some of my recollections might be fuzzy).

1.  I believe our data will be skewed because of the following reasons:

– The survey was in English – I think we have a sizable population at our church in which English is not the preferred language, so I suspect that we will be missing this group in our results.

– The survey was only offered online – I think we will be missing two distinct groups because of this: 1) older folks, and 2) those without ready computer access.  Sometimes these two groups go hand in hand, but sometimes they do not (e.g. low income families that don’t own computers OR blue-collar types who are generally averse to technology.  There are a lot of folks I know personally who do not have or answer emails when we try to get in touch with them).

In sum, here is a general description of the person who took the survey – youngish, English-speaking, computer savvy, and middle income person.

This description is just a conjecture, but this is my gut feeling.

2. I think the language was very Evangelical

My memory may not be serving me correctly, but I recall the language being very classically Evangelical.  There is an emphasis on Individual and Corporate Prayer, Bible Study, Small Groups, Sermons, etc.

We certainly use these terms too, but there’s an added vernacular that we use that wasn’t depicted in the survey.  For instance, our rule of life speaks of prayer, rest, community, and work – the language is a bit broader and all-encompassing of the different spheres of life.

As a result, I think the survey may have been a bit difficult for our folks to relate to, which might have made it difficult to answer some of the questions. For example, if someone at our church has only heard the language we use for growth and spiritual vitality, the language used in the survey is likely foreign and confusing, especially when it comes to ranking what’s most important to a person’s spiritual growth.

I must admit, I had a difficult time relating to some of the options in the survey, and I’m fairly fluent with evangelical culture, I think.

3.  Growth/Vitality is Measured in these Evangelical Categories

Here’s where I think our data might also be skewed, but also where I felt strange when the categories came up for what I valued about spiritual formation.  The Evangelical categories didn’t seem to fit paradigms we use for spiritual life.

For instance, it’s likely one will hear something like this when it comes to growth at New Life Fellowship:

– The area I need to grow in is having fun.

– I need to learn to say no and respect my limits.

– I need to explore why I’m so defensive when this person mentions ____.

– I need to take more risks with my life.

– I want to be able to notice God more while I’m at work.

– I want to explore my family of origin issues.

– I need to get into a better rhythm of work and rest.

– I need to let go of control when suffering comes to me or if I’m going through a funk.

– I need to constantly be reminded of my acceptance in Christ.

– I want to be able to sit and listen to someone different than me without trying to fix, advise or change them.

Now, each of the statements above are HUGE undertakings, and we teach that they are just as fundamental to the Christian journey as how much I pray and how much of the Bible I know and memorize.

Certainly prayer and Scripture are important and foundational to all that we do, but the incarnation is about putting Scripture to life, and these elements are often more difficult to measure than simply saying, “I pray more as a result of going here,” or “I know more about the Bible as a result of going here,” or “I serve x times in different ministries.”

NLF’s paradigms of growth are categorically different than what the REVEAL survey seemed to outline… we like to convey organic and holistic growth, which seems to be more difficult to measure than “I pray more” or “I serve more” or “I read the Bible more”.  As a result, the language itself is different, and so ultimately, it can be like comparing apples to oranges.

4.  In Summary, a Helpful but Awkward Fit

I’m glad we took the survey, because “the unexamined life is not worth living” (Aristotle?  or Socrates via Plato?).  Any tool that’ll help me grow, I’m all for it (as long as it’s not too big a time crunch).  I think people who took it were generally grateful that it caused them to think and reflect on some of the classical, evangelical practices that are good to practice.

At the same time, I thought the fit of the survey was a bit awkward.  Our paradigms and language are different, so it’s hard to relate the two together.  For instance, I can easily see someone “score” as if they are not doing well in many classical evangelical areas, but they’re probably doing really well in loving their enemies.  Or, vice versa – someone can hate their enemies but “score well” on the survey.

So, those are some of my thoughts.  I hope my portrayal of the survey was fair – I took it so long ago that my biases may have grown stronger and one-sided.  But these were my gut reactions after taking the survey.

Thanks to all the folks at Willow who put it together.  And thanks to all the New Lifers who took the survey, you really did serve us, and I look forward to sifting through the results!

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3 responses to “Thoughts on the REVEAL Study

  1. thanks drew. this is a really thoughtful review. one of the best reflections on the REVEAL survey i’ve seen. thanks!

  2. Your phrase “a helpful but awkward fit” sums up nicely the feeling I had while taking the REVEAL study. While I welcomed it, it still was like being pushed into a multiple choice situation when I could have done the study better justice by answering essay-type questions.

  3. Your gut feeling on #1 is actually a big one. A survey is merely a snapshot in time. If all people smile for the camera, you got a winner. But most of the time, several shots is needed to composite a true image. And so how can we retake the survey in a way that is cost effective, and faithful to the nature of the congregation. How can the questions be design to foster a variety of perspectives without loosing its own integrity. Does it matter? When is counting horses and chariots an offense? this is unclear. One day, I like to see an urban church planting center that embrace the breath of people groups of Queens. It is definitely exciting to be in this city serving God.

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