What is the CAT?

The Church Assessment Tool is an 86 question online assessment of a congregation that is completed by members of a church.  We affectionately call it a CAT-SCAN.  It generates a report called Vital Signs©.

What is the purpose of the CAT?

Using the Congregation Assessment Tool is like taking your church to a doctor, a travel agent and a tailor.  It gives leaders a read-out on the health of the church, a sense of where members think the church should head in the future, and a description of the church as a unique body of people.

Leaders talk to people in the church all the time.  Why do they need a survey to know what people are thinking?

Leaders, like everyone else, tend to talk with a relatively small number of people.  It can be difficult for them to have a comprehensive understanding of how the entire body is doing.  When someone comes to them with a problem and concludes with “And I’m not the only one who feels this way,” the leader is left wondering “How many people do feel this way?”

Isn’t a survey too impersonal?

In fact, many people find a survey to be very personal because it asks them their personal perspective on a number of topics that they are rarely asked about.  What is certain is that the Congregation Assessment Tool is impartial.  Because the results are completely confidential, it does not matter whether a person is talkative or shy, young or old, a recent member or a longtime member. Their views are equally respected.

Should leaders be discerning God’s will through surveys?

Information from the Vital Signs© report is just one component of a discernment process.  Leaders must also include prayer, Scripture, and tradition.  However, leaders cannot help their members move in a new direction if they do not know where their members are. When I call someone to ask for directions, the first question they will ask me is “Where are you now?”  If I don’t know, they can’t help me.  It is a cardinal rule of spiritual leadership:  You cannot help a person or group of person move to a new place if you do not start with where they are.  The Congregation Assessment Tool© helps leaders know where their members are.

Why can’t I find a copy of the assessment on your website with all of the questions?

We understand that this can be a bit frustrating but because this is our intellectual property we do not give out the assessment before an order has been placed. We do try to share as much as we can by publishing a sample Vital Signs report of the final results that you will receive. You can find that on the CAT page.

How long does the whole process take from start (our order) to finish (our interpretation)?

Typically, the entire process takes about 6 weeks. For more about how the timeline works please click here.

What about people who don’t have computer access or are just not comfortable with computers?

We provide a PDF file of the survey, with the online link, that can be used to create print copies that members can complete and return to the church where a trusted person can go online and input their data. For information on best practices for paper surveys please click here.

What if we are not comfortable entering the paper assessments for our congregation?

Entering the assessments as a church ensures that we can get reports done faster. However, in the rare instance you need help we can do the data entry on our end. Please let our office know you will be needing data entry at the end of the process. Once you have received all of the paper assessments you can mail them all at one time to us at Holy Cow! Consulting, P.O. Box 304, Westerville, Ohio 43086. The cost of having us enter the assessments is $100 per hour, with a minimum cost of one hour. We can usually enter approximately 8 assessments per hour. Please note, we will need 8-10 business days after receipt to enter your paper assessments so please allow time for that when scheduling your interpretation date.

Can we add questions to the CAT?

Absolutely. You can add up to five of its own questions at no additional fee.

Why do I need to add on modules to the CAT?

You do not have to add on modules however, sometimes churches find that adding specific questions about strategic planning, stewardship campaigns, clergy transitions can be helpful. We have already created those questions for you in specific modules so, for no additional cost, you can add them to your CAT.

How does the church set up the survey for members to take it online?

Once we receive your order, we create the survey for the church and send the web link to the church contact person via Constant Contact.  Check your spam folder if it does not land in your inbox within 24 business hours.  The leadership team or an appointed person can then send out the link via email blast to the list of the people you have identified to take the assessment. Alternatively, the webmaster for the church website can create a button on the member page of the church website which members or attenders can click or use social media to invite people to take the assessment.

Who should be invited to take the assessment?

All members, attenders and affiliates who have been active within the past year, who are able to physically and emotionally cope with the survey, and are 16 years of age or older.

Can multiple people sharing email addresses or the same device take the assessment?

Yes. We do not lock the assessment by email address or IP address just so that people who share email addresses, e-readers, computers, etc. can each take the assessment.

How can you ensure that people are not taking the assessment multiple times in an attempt to alter the results?

While assessment fraud is highly unlikely, at the end of the process, when we run the data, we check IP addresses. If someone has logged in multiple times and answered all of the questions the same, we will send a note to our contact at the church to make them aware of the issue. It is also important to know that, dependent on the size of the response rate, in order to truly alter the final results of the assessment someone would have to go to a lot of effort of taking the assessment many times and responding exactly the same each time.

We are very concerned about unauthorized people taking the assessment. How can we avoid that?

If this is truly a concern, please contact us and we can set-up a password or other protections to ensure that only authorized and invited people take the assessment.

How do we publicize the CAT?

Our website has a set of instructions for the church including sample documents and announcements.  Members can be notified by mail or email and given information about how to take the survey. We suggest announcing the CAT roll-out on Sunday or at your regular worship times two weeks before you launch to get folks excited about taking the assessment. Some churches have had people dress up like cows or cats to announce the assessment. Get creative!

How soon will we get our CAT once we order?

If we don’t have any questions for you we will get your order to you within 24 business hours. Please note our office is open Monday through Friday (unless a holiday) so if you place your order on a Friday you will receive it the following Monday.

How long does it take for people to take the assessment and can they take it in multiple sittings?

The assessment takes on average 22 minutes (that is the real average). We usually ask that people set aside 30 minutes to take the assessment just in case they need more time. We suggest that people take the assessment in one sitting although the assessment program will not time folks out if they walk away and come back. The only concern is if the individual’s device is set to “go to sleep” or shut-down after a certain period of activity. This may mean that they will need to start the assessment over and we will need to be notified so we can delete their earlier response.

How will we know how many people have taken the assessment?

While your assessment is running, we will send a weekly update on Fridays to our church contact person with the number of people who have taken the assessment.

How quickly does it take to generate our Vital Signs Report at the end of the process?

We will get your reports completed and sent to your trained CAT interpreter within 48 to 72 business hours after your assessment has closed.

Why do we need an interpretation of our data results?

While the Vital Signs Report is meant to be as user friendly as possible, there is quite a lot of data in the results that needs to be explained by a trained interpreter. This will allow your congregation to get the most use out of the assessment and begin thinking about next steps. We suggest having your church leadership at the interpretation, including church board members, search committee teams, mission or strategic planning teams, etc.