Neighborhood changes in many areas of Western PA have been rapid since the in 1990s. The shifting economy and societal changes have created individual and family situations that are much different from even 10 or 15 years ago. A demographic tool available through the Western PA Conference offers congregations a way to get to know and understand their communities as they seek to reach more people for Jesus Christ.
MissionInsite pulls together census data, statistics gathered by marketing firms and its own information on religious preferences. The information gleaned can be used in a number of ways and it is updated regularly. A major upgrade was published September 2019.
Rev. Alyce Weaver Dunn, Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, notes that MissionInsite “is not an outreach tool per se, but is a good way for us to break through the assumptions we make about our communities, using latest census information to get fact.”
Here's how MissionInsite was used in two different areas of Western PA:
Faith UMC in Fox Chapel -- In 2012 members of began hosting prayer walks in neighboring Sharpsburg, seeking God's vision for fresh ways to reach this community following the closure of Grace UMC in Sharpsburg two years earlier. The congregation also received a demographics report from MissionInsite which provided insight into the social, racial, ethnic, economic, and religious landscape of the community.
“Such information proved invaluable, as it helped members of the congregation make sense of the people and relationships they were making through the prayer walks,” said the Rev. Tom Parkinson. “Two years later, the congregation's Roots of Faith Ministry has a storefront presence in Sharpsburg, and much of their ministry plans for the new space are informed by and arise in response to the MissionInsite report.
“The data was helpful in giving us a model to understand what we were seeing on the ground,” he added. “The data alone would have been meaningless and just talking to the people on the street would have taken us a very long time to understand what we were hearing. Meeting the people and putting a face on the numbers worked well together for us.”
Good Shepherd UMC, North Clarion -- When the Rev. Seth McPherson served as pastor of Good Shepherd UMC he explored MissionInsite and described it as "a resource that offers countless insights and angles into the communities of which our church is a part. While at times the sheer volume of information, statistics and demographics can be overwhelming, I am intrigued by the ways this information can help a pastor and a congregation examine, shift, upend, and celebrate the ways they work among the people of their area."
McPherson said several things about MissionInsite were valuable as he used the tool with church leadership. The reports on “everything from population trends to diversity to household income to religious beliefs and social concerns of any customized area gave me greater depth of understanding to ‘who we are’, ‘what we think’, ‘what we do’ and ‘who we will be,’” he explained.
Register to Use MissionInsite
A church leader should sign up for their church. For more information or to get started by creating a login id, contact the Conference Secretary at 724.776.2300 x248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.