60 Theologians on an Ecclesiological Spectrum
Superb practical tips about preaching: Communications professor Lori Carrell in Rev.

Willow Creek REVEAL's second book Follow Me tells us very little

Bradley Wright, associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, has now thoroughly and aptly reviewed Follow Me (September 2008), the second REVEAL book. (I too have read both books).  Follow Me is quite similar to the first REVEAL book (September 2007) but you will be interested to know Willow Creek itself is not included in the data this time--though you learned nothing about Willow Creek from REVEAL either since their data was mixed in with six other churches.

See: Search for Follow Me at Bradley Wright's blog

I love Willow Creek but I am sad that they are not using quantitative data better because it is no doubt confusing them and a lot of other people.
The Reveal and Follow Me studies look for factors that are highly correlative in spiritual growth.  However, none of these "discoveries" are in fact at all surprising.

I have summarized their conclusions below in my own words. 

Here are their Reveal conclusions paraphrased by me:

  • People who report their commitment to God at high levels spend about as much time in church activities as those who report a medium level of commitment to God. 
  • Personal spiritual practices correlate with a Christ-centered life.
  • A church’s most active evangelists, volunteers and donors come from those who report a high level of commitment to God.
  • More than 25 percent of those surveyed described themselves as spiritually stalled or dissatisfied with the role of the church in their spiritual growth.

Here are the Follow Me conclusions paraphrased by me:

  • They found that people who self-report being closer to Christ correlate with more knowledge of Christian beliefs, more practicing of Christian behaviors, and appreciating the Bible more. 

If church leaders get access to the raw data and are able to interpret it in ways different from how it is explained in the Reveal and Follow Me books, that could indeed be very fruitful.

For example, Follow Me has this intriguing line but no further explanation.  "In the 200 churches surveyed, this number [the number of those who are both satisfied and not stalled] ranged from a high of 84 percent to a low of 48 percent" (p. 101). Unfortunately, Follow Me does not tell us anything about those churches or even hint what might  be going on in them that produces the disparate scores. 

Furthermore, they do not measure how many people are newly committing to Christ.  If a church scored 48% because some people were dissatisfied with all the new converts around, then that 48% might not be as bad a number.

It seems to me the two books are designed to encourage churches to do the REVEAL study in their churches.  I think you can do better with other resources. 

There are other consultants who do church self-assessment work:

1. Allelon: Alan Roxburgh

See his book about consulting: The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (J-B Leadership Network Series) by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk (2006).  They offer the Mission-Shaped Leader Survey. This group located in Eagle, ID has a "missional" emphasis similar to Darrell Guder's The Missional Church.

2. Church Innovations: Patrick Keifert

Luther Seminary (St. Paul, Minn.) professor Keifert has a book out about consulting: We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era by Patrick Keifert (2007).  Partnership for Missional Church (PMC) is what they call their qualitative assessment process.  "Church FutureFinder is an on-line resource for congregational discovery." This group has a "missional" emphasis similar to Darrell Guder's The Missional Church and has particular strengths with Lutheran congregations.

3. Easum Bandy & Associates: Bill Easum, Tom Bandy, Bill Tenny-Brittian and the EBA Associates.

In 2000, Bill Easum and Tom Bandy, (see preceding links for their books), merged their consulting organizations: Easum's "21st Century Strategies" (founded in 1987) and Bandy's  "Thriving Church Consulting" (founded in 1995) to form EBA located in Port Aransas, TX.  See their Consultation Tools.  This group has more of a focus on church growth.

4. Alban Institute: Alban Consultants

Founded in 1974, located in greater Washington, DC, they have published many books on issues related to pastoral leadership.  They serve mostly mainline congregations.   

See also this reputable book about doing church self-assessment:

Studying Congregations: A New Handbook by Nancy Tatom Ammerman, Jackson W. Carroll, Carl S. Dudley, and William McKinney (1998)