Behind the Numbers: A Closer Look at the ChurchPulse Assessment

Barna’s ChurchPulse assessment offers pastors the chance to truly know how their people are doing in five key areas of flourishing and how their church is faring in three key areas of organizational thriving.

First made available to church leaders in the spring of 2020, just months after the COVID-19 pandemic had shut down the U.S., the framework of ChurchPulse helped shaped the research and reporting in Barna’s newly released The State of Your Church project.

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What Is ChurchPulse?
The quick answer: The ChurchPulse assessment is a quick, 10-minute survey that pastors can customize and deploy to both their congregation and their staff to get the pulse of their church’s flourishing and thriving scores.

The in-depth answer: Developed by Barna Group and Gloo with expert advice from leaders in the human flourishing space—including Dr. Tyler Vanderweele and Dr. Nancy Lewis—the ChurchPulse assessment measures five levels of human flourishing (faith, relationships, vocation, finances and well-being) and three dimensions of organizational thriving (nurturing, sending and leading, with 15 markers spread across these aspects).

Once the ChurchPulse assessment—or its lite version, the PeoplePulse—has been sent to congregants and / or staff, results from anonymously completed surveys fill in a dashboard, offering pastors a holistic view of their church environment. This view allows pastors to note areas of strength in their congregation as well as opportunities for growth for their people and the larger organization. The ChurchPulse presents pastors with real-time results to help them craft a ministry strategy based on the needs of their people.

How Was ChurchPulse Created?
In Barna’s The State of Your Church webcast (watch the free replay on Barna Access), hosts Carey Nieuwhof and Nona Jones sat down with Savannah Kimberlin (Director of Research Solutions, Barna) and Dr. Peter Larson (Director of Assessments, Gloo) to discuss exactly what went into the development of the ChurchPulse framework, the science behind it and why people can trust this resource.

“The development process was two-pronged,” notes Dr. Larson. “On one hand, Gloo was working really hard on the technology to make it easy for churches to assess a whole congregation without much friction. On the content side, we started by reviewing a lot of what has been done—books, articles, research, other assessments—to get a lay of the land. And then we pulled together a team of collaborators.

“We really wanted a lot of voices speaking into this, representing it and being able to stack hands around it,” explains Dr. Larson. “Once we had developed a model that we all felt and sounded right and research-informed, we began to generate some drafts of this tool that we then took out and tested with over 20 churches, with representative samples of research panels around the country. We were able to look at the data and analyze [the tool] to see what was working and what needed to be refined. Then we finished by consulting with some of the leading experts.”

Kimberlin shares about the experts who consulted on the development of the ChurchPulse assessment as well as the refinement process for this resource. “We had the chance to work with two experts in particular: Dr. Tyler VanderWeele from the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard and Dr. Nancy Lewis who works with Reveal.

“Bringing them into that refinement process,” continues Kimberlin, “taking everything we’ve learned and all the data we’d collected to narrow our focus, we knew we needed to make a tool that was very efficient and not too heavy of a lift [to deploy] for a church.

“Especially as we enter a post-pandemic world, [church leaders] need to stretch to think differently and measure more than just [attendance], budgets and baptisms,” encourages Kimberlin. “The ChurchPulse aims to do just that, helping pastors stretch and measure things like people’s relationships, people’s comfort level with evangelism and whether people are worried about their finances. Knowing these things can lead pastors to better understand the people they’re serving so they can get strategic with discipleship or anything else their church is doing to help their people become more whole and complete.”

“At Gloo, we really believe that pastors need to know their people,” Dr. Larson adds. “So these assessments—which we call pulses—are really designed to help pastors know where their people are at. We’re trying to do that with common metrics … so that churches can track and compare themselves to how they were doing a year ago or how they compare to other churches nationwide.”

How Can Pastors Apply the Findings to Their Ministries?
Once congregants and leaders complete the ChurchPulse assessment—or any of the other pulses created by Barna and Gloo—respondents are redirected to a page of helpful resources and next steps for them to explore on their own. For pastors, the real-time data and easy-to-read dashboard offer clarity as leaders determine next steps for their church and strategize around strengthening their people in specific areas of flourishing.

Another panelist from the State of Your Church Webcast, Bobby Gruenewald (pastor of innovation at Life Church and founder of YouVersion and Church Online), discusses the importance of common metrics for churches nationwide. “This is a really important time for church leaders and pastors. More than ever before, we now have a challenge being able to decipher how effective our ministries are… We thought we had metrics figured out … until people moved to digital spaces,” notes Gruenwald. “I think it’s very important that we work collectively to figure out a common set of metrics that allow us to have a better picture of where our congregation is and what’s happening in their lives and to be able to understand what effective ministry looks like during this time.”

Randy Frazee (lead teaching pastor at Westside Family Church in Lenexa, Kansas) also shares how his church has strategized for certain ministry  goals around their ChurchPulse results. In recent years, Frazee’s church has used Barna’s ChurchPulse assessment to better understand the health of their congregants. After realizing members were struggling most with financial flourishing, the church designed a teaching series on finances. Congregants were also given access to a financial literacy course.

“One of the best ways to serve someone is to take time to listen to them and find out where they are,” Frazee explains. “Honor them by designing your ministry priorities and strategies to help them close the gap on their desire to flourish.”

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The ChurchPulse assessment—and other assessments created by Barna and Gloo—are completely free to deploy. Login to Barna Access (or activate your free account here) to learn more about the Pulses and deploy them in your church.  

Feature image by Austin Distel on Unsplash.

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