Remember the TV show "Family Feud" where contestants tried to guess the answers given by a survey of persons? They would guess an answer, and then the moderator would say "Survey says" and it would be revealed whether or not their answer was a popular one.
In a similar effort, our Conference leadership recently sent out an anonymous survey to over 2,400 UM clergy and lay leadership to ascertain whether or not they (the conference leaders) are communicating well the mission, vision, and goals of the Indiana Conference. The survey received a good response (916 responded) in terms of percentage of those who responded, along with some who were immediately suspicious (those are the ones who wrote to me) about what might be the real reason for the survey. One layperson wrote me to ask if his answers were truly anonymous, and another wrote to ask if his church could not answer the questions properly would their pastor be moved.
Some of the survey results were quite positive. For example, almost everyone could identify the Mission of our United Methodist Church ("making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world"). That mirrors my experience as I travel among our local churches – nearly everyone seems to know our Mission, and that's good. Most responding said their own congregations are aligned to this Mission, too. A strong majority said they see the Bishop and Extended Cabinet modeling visionary leadership.
However, other survey results were not so positive – and thus helped the conference leaders to know where they have work to do. For example, most respondents did not know the Goals of our Indiana Conference, nor could they identify the Values of our conference. Several responses seemed to reveal a lack of trust (not necessarily a mistrust, but a lack of trust) that the Annual Conference really does exist for the good of the congregations and people of the Indiana Conference. That one really concerns me, because a key hope of our Imagine Indiana plan was to structure the conference to support, equip, and encourage our local churches. We even used the phrase "the churches don't exist to support the Conference; the Conference exists to support our local churches." Obviously we have not arrived at a place where there is trust by everyone.
So, the survey says we still have work to do. I give credit to our conference leaders for having the nerve to do a survey and ask for feedback. Some respondents said the survey could have been worded better, and I am sure that is true, but it is helpful to get feedback. Now comes the hard part … The conference leadership is working to address the issues identified. The keys they have named are: Trust, Transparency, and Communication. Hopefully the next survey will reveal progress on those issues.
Thanks to all who responded to the survey, especially to those who shared concerns. The only way we can all improve is if we all are honest and supportive with one another. I am mindful of the admonition in Scripture (Hebrews 10:24): "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds."