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"What is CONTEXT?"
Context is a brief, easy-to-use planning resource that presents you with important and comparable information about your community, your congregation and your congregation’s programs and ministries. Regardless of your data analysis experience or expertise, you can use Context to develop a quick and accurate grasp of your congregation’s current ministry environment—a critical part of any future planning effort.
"Where does the information in Context come from?"
There are two primary sources for information presented in the Context report. Beginning on page three, Community information is provided by Percept, a nationally recognized and respected research organization that specializes in gathering and distributing census and other religious-oriented research information for churches. Begining on page seven, information about your congregation is derived from an extensive survey which was administered to your congregation and specially designed to gather data in a format which can be easily compared to your community.
"How is Context organized?"
There are seven parts to Context, each designed to address a critical planning question.

Part 1 - The Community begins with the question: Who is out there? and provides a concise summary of the extensive census and other data collected from your community.

Part 2 - The Congregation uses the congregational survey data to respond to the question: Who are we?

Part 3 - The Comparison reviews the first two parts and addresses the question: How do we differ from the community?

Part 4 - Program Ratings returns to the congregational survey to focus on this question: How do we feel about our congregation’s programs and ministries?

Part 5 - Program Preferences examines both the community and congregation to address the question: What do people want from a church?

Part 6 - Life’s Satisfactions returns to the congregational survey and reports the results of this question: In what areas of our lives do we feel satisfaction or discontent?

Part 7 - Health & Wholeness is a final comparison of the congregation and community and speaks to this question: In what areas of their lives are people experiencing distress?

When you have completed your review of Context, you will not have the "final" answer to any of the above questions, but you will have a solid foundation upon which to base further reflection, discussion and analysis.
"Our ministry environment is complex and multi-faceted. How can Context summarize it in just a few pages?"
Studied in enough detail, every organizational environment can seem incomprehensibly complex. However, if you hope to make competent decisions about future direction, you must find a way to reduce the details (i.e., complexity) to a manageable level. Clearly, the only way Context can assist you in this process is by masking the many unnecessary details and focusing your attention on a smaller number of important themes in a logical sequence. Percept refers to this approach as the Percept Information Principle.
"What is the Percept Information Principle?"
The Percept Information Principles states that information must answer the right planning question at the appropriate time for meaningful perceptions to be formed. In any planning or reflection process, there is always more information obtainable than your group can hope to make sense of. The challenge is to gather and review the right information at the right time to develop accurate and useful perceptions about your environment.
"So we need manageable detail, who decides what themes are in Context?"
For the past eight years, Percept has joined with over 15,000 local congregations and hundreds of church governing bodies to assist them in better understanding their environmental context. By creatively using census and other demographic data, custom research and local surveys, Percept has developed numerous tools and methodologies that have proven themselves time and again to be the most effective resources available for church planning and development. The GapThemes and Divergence Analysis used in Context are examples of these tools.
"What is a GapTheme?"
A GapTheme is simply a piece of information which can be easily compared between two groups such as a congregation and the community or between a group and some "ideal" condition. For example, the overall education level of the total population within the community can easily be compared to the education level of your congregation. Doing so, you may discover that they are at similar levels or that one is different from the other. This comparison is referred to as Divergence Analysis.
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