REVEALed: A Lot of People Have Been Here a Long Time Without Growing

[This is one of a series of posts related to the REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey. To see the others, click here.]

In the previous post in the series, I talked about how, although we knew a lot of folks had been in our church for a long time, we were surprised at how high the tenure numbers were: 45% of our congregation had been here for a decade or longer. There were certainly important insights and conclusions given to us from this number, but it isn't even getting into the uniqueness of what REVEAL does. How long people have been here is an easily observable, external thing. Whether they've matured during that time is much harder to quantify, but it's exactly the kind of thing that REVEAL is designed to do.

A core feature of the REVEAL Survey is its Spiritual Continuum Profile, which helps a church's leaders to get a glimpse of the spiritual maturity of their congregation, based upon four segments:

  • Exploring Christ: These people are connected with a church to some degree and exploring what it means to be a Christian, but have yet to make a Christian commitment.
  • Growing in Christ: Despite the segment's name, these people may or may not be experiencing growth. They have come to profess the orthodox Christian beliefs as being true, but still have yet to arrange their lives around their faith in any significant ways, perhaps with the exception of church attendance.
  • Close to Christ: Characteristics of this group include that they participate in spiritual practices with some regularity, and they exhibit higher degrees of love for God and others.
  • Christ-Centered: Their relationship with Christ is the most dominant factor in shaping the lives of these people. It profoundly influences their use of time and resources, their attitudes, their practices, their levels of love for God and others, and their willingness to sacrifice anything for Christ.

In most churches, the second segment (Growing in Christ) is the largest, and that was the case with us. However, as it was with how long people in our congregation had been here, even though we weren't surprised that this was our largest segment, it was eye-opening to see how large the percentage of our people in this segment was: 46%.

So far in this post and the previous one, I've only mentioned information which REVEAL directly tells us, but what follows is my own analysis of the combination of these first two statistics.

So, our tenure numbers indicated that 45% of the people in our church have been here for a decade or longer. Then this number indicates that 46% of our people profess the right answers regarding their beliefs, but still have yet to arrange their lives around their faith in significant ways.

Certainly, although those percentages are very close to one another, there's nothing to indicate that they represent exactly the same group of people. In other words, there's no reason for me to walk down the halls on Sunday morning, pass by someone whom I know has been around for more than a decade, and assume that because they're part of the 45% who have been here for a decade or longer, they must also be part of the 46% who profess the beliefs, but need to start letting it affect their lifestyles. They can't be exactly the same groups of people, but the percentages are large enough that we can safely conclude there's a significant number of people in who would be counted as a part of both groups: people who have been here a long time and haven't grown.

So although we can't put a number on how many people have been here a long time and haven't moved forward, here's my best non-scientific shot at quantifying this group: there's a lot of 'em. There are a lot of people who have made our church their home for years, even decades, without experiencing any significant change in their beliefs and attitudes about God, without growing into greater levels of love for God and others, without maturing as followers of Jesus, without experiencing the abundant kind of life that Jesus said he came to offer us. (I'm using "them" here, but don't worry- I realize "they" aren't the biggest hurdle to our church doing great ministry.)

So what does this teach us, and what can we do about it? REVEAL gave us another great insight that helps to explore those questions, which will be the next post in the series: A lot of people have been here a long time without growing, and don't even know that they should be.