Polarity Survey Findings

We, at Hope Church, are part of a long history (more than 150 years!) and we want to be mindful of looking toward the future. Part of how we are “discerning our future” has been working with polarities. See Gordon’s “…and finally” piece in the April newsletter for an introduction to the polarities concept and the four polarities we’ve been working with over the last 3 years.

Authors Barry Johnson and Roy Oswald wrote a book entitled Managing Polarities in Congregations: Eight Keys for Thriving Faith Communities. The polarities they identify are:

  • Tradition AND Innovation
  • Strong Clergy Leadership AND Strong Lay Leadership
  • Inreach AND Outreach
  • Spiritual Health AND Institutional Health
  • Management AND Leadership
  • Nurture AND Transformation
  • Making Disciplines: Easy Process AND Challenging Process

Hope Church chose to work on the first 3, and added one of its own (Individual AND Community). And we saw the fruit of that discernment and consideration in many parts of the life of the church over the last three years. We have wanted to “check” in on our polarity work with the larger congregation. We’ve been working for a long time trying to create a meaningful and straightforward way to think about how we are managing these polarities together.

It’s not been an easy journey. Most surveys set up questions as either/or choices, and this one deliberately tries to focus on how well the congregation finds leverage to practice both/and thinking. We also have a congregation that pushed back at the “corporate” language used in the survey, and in the less than rigorous survey framework that we started with. All that push back led to a better survey. And there is still plenty of room for improvement. But this survey gives us lots of material for consideration as we discern our future together. Surveys don’t actually do any discerning – they only help us focus our attention.

93 members of the Hope Church Community took the survey in February, and the results give us more to think about and do. First, our results on the polarities themselves were very good. In the perception of those who took the survey, we are a congregation that lives with both/and thinking and discernment. That will serve us well as we confront difficult issues in the future.

Perhaps the most intriguing results are the demographics of those who actually took the survey. Nearly 90% of those who took the survey are engaged with Hope Church at least once a week on average. More women than men took the survey. More than 90% of the people who took the survey are older than 50, with nearly half of the respondents over 65. This led to a lot of consistory discussion about what these results mean and what action is called for. And the survey results are just the beginning of our conversations. The conversations continue as we discern our future together.

~Kay Hubbard, Personnel Committee member