EVALUATION / NEED MEETING & How to Tactfully Inquire About Non-churchgoers’ Physical Needs AND Spiritual Needs

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 6/15/15.

Most leaders realize it is important for a leader to get all of the news (both good and bad) from the church corridors … but it is especially important to gain knowledge about spiritual and physical needs from non-churchgoers too.

Yet, many people don’t know how to ask non-churchgoers about their physical needs.  And we usually really falter, when we want to ask about their spiritual needs.  With an undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology, I learned to design questionnaires.  Therefore, I developed simple data-gatherings instruments to help in need assessment.

1)  The first (below) is a simple question that can help you ask non-churchgoers about their physical needs. The key is not to ask about their needs, which may be too personal.  Instead, ask them about needs in their community (and they will then usually tell you about their needs).

Figure 2.5 Canvass Question (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 38)

“Hello. My name is ___________(name)___________ and I am from ___________(name of church)___________. I am asking people to help us understand what are the greatest needs of this community that a church like ours could address?

2)  Secondly, here are additional questions to ask spiritual travelers about their spiritual life.  It is from a chart I developed for the Cure for the Common Church book.  It can give you proven ideas (from John Wesley no less) for tactfully learning about the needs of non-churchgoers.

Figure 8.3 Questions for Discovering the Needs of Spiritual Travelers (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 150) [i]

These questions should be asked with discretion. Many are variations of the questions John Wesley suggested. Remember, do not be judgmental and do not use these questions verbatim; rather use them as idea generators:

  • Do you have peace with God?
  • How is God dealing with you lately?
  • How do you feel about God? How do you think God feels about you?
  • Is there some thought or behavior that has dominion over you?
  • Is there something in your life you wish to change, but have been powerless to do so?
  • What faults are you struggling with?
  • What secrets are you holding that you need to share among friends?
  • What things do you do, about which your conscience feels uneasy?
  • What do you want to say to God about the pain in your life?
  • When is life flowing out of you?
  • When if life flowing into you?

These questions are not an end-game, but the beginning of a heartfelt dialogue with eternal consequences.  use them as guides to more organic and authentic discussion.  And as always, allow the Holy Spirit to infuse your mind and words (Luke 12:11-12).

[i] c.f. D. Michael Henderson, John Wesley’s Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples (Springfield, MO: Evangel Publishing House, 1997), pp. 118-119 and Joel Comiskey, “Wesley’s Small Group Organization,” extracted with permission from Joel Comiskey, History of the Cell Movement: A Ph.D. Tutorial Presented to Dr. Paul Pierson; http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/tutorials/cellHistory-1.html. The last two questions were suggested by Elaine Heath in her address to The Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, Chicago, IL, June 16, 2011.