7.24.2017

Sociometrics: Mapping your Congregation

A number of years ago I was introduced to Jacob Moreno's concept of  "sociometrics." The idea that a few simple questions can produce a map of the social network of a classroom (or a church,) gave me an idea.

I took he concept of a Spiritual Gifts test and re-engineered it so that you were not answering questions about yourself, but about other people in your church.

Traditional spiritual gifts tests suffer from a number of problems that make them unreliable.

First, because traditional tests ask the individual about themselves, they tend to suffer from what is called  confirmation bias. In other words, when people encounter questions like, "Do you like helping people in need?" they are inclined to answer based on what they thing good Christians OUGHT be say.

Second, there is the problem of personal preference for some gifts over others. Someone might say, "It'd be really cool to have the gift of prophecy." And then choose to skew their answers in a way that they think will push the test toward that result.

Finally, spiritual gifts tests are also incomplete, in that they still require confirmation from the congregation to truly be considered valid.
 
All this changes when other people answer questions about you. By asking the congregation things like, "who do you regularly turn to for prayer?" or "who would you reach out to if you needed help.?" You eliminate the possibility of confirmation bias - and get confirmation of peoples spiritual gifting to boot,  because you are not asking people how they perceive themselves, or how they would like to serve - you are asking the congregation what they see in people, and how they have been served.
 
Plus there is an added benefit when you consider the sociometric data you've collected. One year at my former church home The Salvage Yard, I recruited a friend to help me administer the spiritual gifts test to our congregation. Questionnaires were passed out during our annual thanksgiving potluck. We compiled the results and produced a map of the church's social network. We presented a copy to the board of Elders and explained how it could be used.
 
From this Map we were also able to do things, like predict which individuals would be nominated as deacons by the congregation - due to their centrality in the network.
 
We were also able to predict that a large group of people would leave the church when two individuals moved - because they were their only connection to the group.
 
I think this kind of information would be very helpful to pastors who want to serve their congregations better. Discovering untapped leadership potential, predicting fractures and splits in the congregation, etc.
 
Look for future posts on this topic.
  • I hope to read and think a lot more about sociometrics and its application.
  • I am also looking for software I can use to generate sociograms for larger groups.

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