Programs and Tools

The Office of Congregational Development exists to help churches reach their maximum potential. In addition to the three primary revitalization processes available through the conference, churches can also receive specialized consulting in a wide variety of areas, including ministry plan development, discerning the future, children and youth programming, and crisis/conflict resolution. Churches interested in consulting must begin by having a conversation with their district superintendent. A variety of other tools available are:


The Minnesota Conference has a group subscription to the online demographic research and report service MissionInsite. This tool provides unlimited access to a wealth of information about the mission field surrounding individual churches within our conference (including data and projections related to age, education, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and marketing preferences of people within a specific geographic area). Standardized and customizable reports are available to all United Methodist churches in Minnesota. Interpretive tools are also provided for applying data to mission field identification and ministry plan development.  The conference maintains this subscription so that there is no fee to churches for this service.

For help using this tool or to request a customized report, contact Gail Johnson, congregational development associate, (612) 230-6125.

Natural Church Development

Natural Church Development (NCD) provides surveys for 30 members of your congregation. The results are tabulated and you receive two reports detailing the strengths and vulnerabilities of your congregation. This information can help you focus your efforts for growth.  

This process involves a “principle-oriented” approach; using a survey tool, churches are assessed for eight quality principles deemed essential for a vital congregation. The cost is $190 for the report; an additional $50 provides an interpretation session with a training consultant—in total, a $500 value. A variety of resources are also available for moving the NCD reports from descriptive material to a foundation for strategic planning and implementation to address a congregation’s “minimum factor.”

To understand a minimum factor: Imagine a barrel with eight staves, each stave representing one of the eight quality principles. The staves in the barrel only reach as high as the score of the characteristics, so you can only fill the barrel to the level of the lowest stave. To increase the capacity of the barrel, we must increase the height of the lowest stave. Focusing on the minimum factor doesn’t mean that we don’t pay attention to the other seven areas, but it helps to set timely priorities. Since all eight areas can’t be worked on with the same amount of energy and concentration, we focus on the areas that will yield the greatest long-range return on investment.

Data and trend reports

Churches submit a wide variety of data each year—including numbers related to small groups, worship attendance, mission giving, volunteer service, and new professions of faith. Using the data that every church submits each year via Tables I, II, and III, and via Vital Signs Dashboard reporting, the Office of Congregational Development can generate reports showing activity for previous years and projecting possible outcomes based on trends. To request a customized report, contact Gail Johnson, congregational development associate, (612) 230-6125.

Mystery guest audit

In order to create a more welcoming atmosphere for first-time visitors, it's helpful to understand what they experience when they attend worship at your church. There are numerous options for churches wanting to do this. Three of them are:

Faith Perceptions: The research and marketing consulting company sends vetted “mystery guests” to worship services at a particular church over a period of several months, and those guests record their observations and impressions. After all the visits, the church receives an extensive report. To make arrangements, contact Gail Johnson, congregational development associate, (612) 230-6125. (Participants receive a group discount when registering through the conference; the cost is approximately $2,000.)

ChurchFuture: Consultant David Raymond consults with churches on a wide variety of matters, including how to become more visitor-friendly. Contact him at (612) 823-0526.

Churches visiting churches: Contact one or several neighboring churches and arrange for each congregation to send volunteer guests who will provide feedback to the others. Three forms are available to collect such feedback. Form 1 / Form 2 / Form 3

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058