The Congregation Assessment Tool™ began as the Church Planning Questionnaire. The Church Planning Questionnaire was developed by Dr. Grayson Tucker who served as the Dean of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary for seven years. The survey was developed in 1974 under the guidance and inspiration of Dr. Ron Lippitt, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Psychology at the University of Michigan who encouraged Dr. Tucker to integrate the learnings of organizational research with the operations of the church. The research work of Dean Hoge, Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America, also provided impetus for a more intentional evaluation of congregational health. The Church Planning Questionnaire was one of the results of those influences.

The Church Planning Questionnaire was developed to meet the following criteria:

  • It should serve both Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations.
  • It should reflect the climate of the church rather than a lengthy evaluation of every program of the church with the understanding that a positive church climate creates a field of health that is conducive to and reflective of effective programming.
  • It should register the particular theological orientation of the congregation and the way faith functions in its life rather than focus solely on operational issues.
  • It should not only capture a snapshot of the current state of the church, it should also include the priorities for a preferred future.
  • It should provide a method for normalizing the data in order to determine what is typical, what is exceptional, and what is problematic.
  • In setting norms, it should recognize the dynamics of church size and that different sized churches have different characteristics.
  • It should provide a way to computerize the data so that relationships between portions of the survey could be explored.
  • It should allow for customization of the survey to address issues facing particular congregations. The Church Planning Questionnaire was used with hundreds of churches from 10 different denominations in 18 different states including Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist. In 1983, the findings from 100 churches were compiled by Grayson Tucker and published in a book entitled The Church Planning Questionnaire: Manual and Discoveries from 100 Churches. In that book, Dr. Tucker compared his findings with other researchers including Carl Dudley, Wade Clark Roof, Lyle E. Schaller, and George Gallup.After Grayson Tucker’s retirement, the work with the questionnaire was continued by J. Russell Crabtree who has both served as a pastor and worked as a researcher in industry. He updated the computer report generated by the questionnaire to include graphics and narrative text. It has been used systematically by regional bodies with churches in transition and continues to be an important tool for churches doing strategic planning.The questionnaire was significantly revised and updated in 2006 to reflect an increased emphasis on worship and music, the diversity of church styles, the ministry of the laity, the leadership of the pastor, and the importance of lifelong learning. At the same time, the instrument was renamed the Church Assessment Tool, which in 2015 was changed to the Congregation Assessment Tool to focus on the body of people who make up the church.