The Apostle James reminds us: When we glance at a mirror, we go away and immediately forget what we saw (James 1:24). Only when we gaze deeply into the “perfect law of liberty” do we see ourselves for who we really are and take steps toward repentance and obedience (James 1:21–25).
Filling out the Annual Church Profile (ACP) gives church leaders an opportunity to take a deep gaze at their church’s ministry effectiveness over the past year … and not walk away untouched by what they see!
Value No. 1 —Annual check up
As its name suggests, the Annual Church Profile provides an annual opportunity to take stock of the year just ended. Using a consistent format, it identifies ministry areas that are faring well and those that need special attention in the year to come.
The ACP has two sections — a statistical profile that measures basic vital signs of church health; and a leadership profile that lists names of staff and volunteers who serve the church in various ministry roles.
The two prongs of the ACP provide churches with an electronic record of invaluable data. These data help the church develop ministry plans that equip its members for Christian discipleship and service to reach its community for Christ.
Value No. 2 — Trend line review
In church life, personal relationships with friends and family are often mutually fulfilling. This can cause declines in participation to go unnoticed. But when two or more years of ACP data are placed side by side, trend lines of ministry effectiveness begin to emerge.
A deep gaze into the resultant trends may reveal growth patterns to celebrate. The same gaze may reveal decreases in attendance, evangelism, giving, or other key indicators of church life. Such declines may be so incremental as to be imperceptible in a single year. A longer view, however, may reveal a concerning trajectory.
For example, if a church baptized nine people last year and baptized eight this year, it may not seem like much of a decline. But if the church looks back five years and sees baptism numbers of 17, then 15, then 12, then nine, then eight, the downward trend raises questions the congregation can begin to address.
Analyzing trends through multiple-year reviews of ACP data can help churches plan more strategically to reach new generations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Value No. 3 — Ministry networking and resourcing
Once churches identify areas of ministry strength and/or weakness, they are better equipped to find resources and schedule training for staff and volunteers named in the leadership profile.
Those named leaders become key points of contact for ministry networking. Having contact information on file enables associations, state conventions, and SBC entities to connect directly with them to help provide additional resources.
These relational connections broaden the base of equipped leadership within the church. They also provide opportunities for church volunteers to have a voice in resource development and provide valuable feedback from real-world ministry settings.
Value No. 4 — Pastoral transitions
When churches face a pastoral transition, they need to know what they are looking for in their next leader. Prospective pastoral candidates need to know whether their strengths and skills are a good fit with the church’s needs.
ACP reports provide vital information to assist the pastor search team. It helps them create a robust church profile to give to the prospective candidate. It also helps identify ministry skills the church needs the next pastor to have.
More often than not, good information leads to better decisions on both sides of the equation. Finding the right leader for the right setting can be a “kairos moment” in the church’s life.
Value No. 5 — Historical records
From Genesis to Revelation, a “remembrance factor” is woven throughout the pages of Scripture, pointing to God’s redemptive plan and His unfailing care.
Fathers passed down blessings of remembrance to their children. Leaders set up stones of remembrance of God’s faithfulness. Jesus instructed His disciples to eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Him. The thief cried out for Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. The LORD declares He will remember our sins against us “no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12)!
While the Annual Church Profile does not and cannot tell a church’s complete story, it serves as an annual “stone of remembrance” of God’s work among His people at a given place in a given year.
Value No. 6 — The greatest value: each person matters
Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep provided a biblical framework for Libby Eaton, who, prior to her retirement last April, oversaw ACP distribution in Tennessee for 19 years.
“Filling out the ACP causes you to ask, ‘Where is the One?’ ” she said while training her successors. “The Shepherd knew the wayward sheep was missing … because he had previously counted.”
The ACP matters because each person, whether summarized in the statistical categories or named in a leadership role, matters.
Individually and personally, each one matters to the church, each one matters to Kingdom ministry, and each one matters to God! B&R