Stage 2 Action Steps: Conducting a Congregational Assessment

Part of Green Sanctuary

This stage has two main goals:

  • To conduct a professional energy audit of your facilities, and
  • To perform a congregational assessment, gathering information about your congregation’s practices and programs.

Your congregation may also choose to incorporate a personal assessment: an optional survey of the individuals in your congregation to assess attitudes and habits related to environmental issues.

Conducting a Congregational Assessment

In the second component of the environmental assessment, your team reviews congregational programs and practices in each Green Sanctuary focus area: Worship and Celebration, Religious Education, Environmental Justice, and Sustainable Living.

Assigned team members will investigate which issues, practices, and policies need evaluation.

Methods for Gathering Data

  • Document review. This could include bylaws, board minutes, and/or policy directives. Newsletters and annual reports can provide basic information about congregational programs.
  • Interviews and reports. Contact staff members, committee chairs, and other leaders for details about programs and practices. (Suggested questions are provided later in this section.)
  • Direct observation. Take a walk around the building. Are lights usually turned off when not in use? Are people using the recycling bins?

Assign data-gathering tasks based on team members’ skills and perspectives. Someone methodical and analytical might prefer reviewing documents, while tact and communication skills are important when conducting interviews.

The actual assessment process will vary considerably across congregations. Some have well-documented procedures, neatly filed records, and a clear structure of committee responsibilities. Other teams may have to dig through records in storage boxes, or try to find the name of the committee member in charge of a relevant, but years-old project. If you encounter these challenges, find out as much as you can. When information is unavailable, look at it as an opportunity to start fresh by identifying new policies or practices.

“How far back should we look?” is a frequent question. If a practice has been in place for two or three years, it’s safe to say it’s ongoing. If a major event happened four or five years ago (moving to a new building, the arrival of a new minister with very different views on the environment), you might want to include an explanation in your assessment.