I am the good shepherd. I
know my sheep and they know me.
- John 10:14
Why conduct a member survey?
A well-done survey combined with skilled analysis provides a snapshot of your membership's views – not just the views of the vocal minority. It can be invaluable in assessing your congregation's needs and in planning to enhance church functioning. A member survey can help make participation in your congregation more spiritually, educationally, and socially rewarding.
Building a strong and vibrant church community is not easy. Clergy, lay leadership, and staff face many challenges including recruitment and retention, increasing attendance at worship services, offering effective religious education, providing creative programming, and the never-ending imperative of fundraising. You know that achieving a spiritually rich religious community requires hard work, collaboration, and patience. However, the task can be eased by also having relevant, timely information - by knowing the characteristics, needs, and desires of your parishioners.
Here are some questions that a congregation-wide survey can address:
General Evaluation: How well are we doing as a Christian community? Are members generally satisfied or are there areas of dissatisfaction? What are our strengths and weaknesses? How might we build on our strengths? What should be improved?
Strengthening Critical Functions: What are members' views about worship services and sermons, religious school, community service programs, charitable giving, and fellowship activities? What creative strategies can help?
Recruitment and Retention: What are the church's main qualities that could be communicated to attract new members? How many families and congregants have been thinking about leaving, and why? (Having a reading of this critical indicator of the organization’s health can be used to help reduce attrition.)
Engagement and Participation: How much do congregants participate in various activities? What are the best ways of stimulating a stronger sense of connectedness, especially among less active members, thereby increasing attendance, active engagement, and retention?
Strategic Planning, Initiatives, Expenditures, Staffing: What are members' preferences for new directions? If you are looking to fill a key staff vacancy, which attirbutes would have the most appeal? How much do members support proposed major expenditures such as building renovations or additions? (A survey can justify a policy or action by demonstrating its popularity, OR avoiding one that could turn out to be unwelcome.)
Leadership - Membership Relations: Are relations between clergy/staff and members cordial and trusting? (What about among various member segments?) Do tensions exist that could emerge into serious problems if not recognized and addressed? (Survey findings can serve as an early warning system of simmering discontent.)
Communications: How much do members read church newsletters and bulletins? How often do they use its website or listserv? In what ways are these useful? What changes might increase readership or participation?
Special Needs of Member Segments: Are there groups in your church whose special needs are not being ministered to, such as teens, single adults, young families, seniors, persons with disabilities?
Religious Beliefs and Commitments: A confidential survey, if carefully constructed and conducted, can profile members' true beliefs about God, prayer, sin and morality, salvation and the afterlife; also, the extent of worship service attendance and other church participation. A survey can measure how much parisioners are aware of, and embrace, key principles of the faith. It can be an effective tool for gauging the spiritual growth and maturity of the membership.
Opinions on Current "Hot Issues": What are your parishioners’ opinions on contemporary hot issues, especially those that might be related to religious beliefs, church policies, pronouncements, programming, or governance?
The Congregation Surveys service is a professional, customized research approach tailored to the specific interests and needs of your church -- not a standardized, “off-the-shelf” tool. It consists of (a) initial discussions with leadership to learn the issues and identify researchable questions, (b) design and programming of an online questionnaire which is engaging and not burdensome to complete (with accommodation for those unable to take the survey by computer), (c) a proven approach to eliciting a strong response rate, and (d) detailed analysis of the results with action recommendations.
In the words of Rev. Ron Foster of Bethesda United Methodist Church:
Dr. Sid Groeneman was a pleasure to work with. Not only did he develop a comprehensive survey instrument to help our congregation sort through some of our current and future needs, but he also presented our church leadership with insightful analysis of the data. Many church members and friends commented to me how they were happily surprised to see how professional and thorough the survey was and how easy it was to take online.
Dr. Sid Groeneman has co-authored (with Dr. Gary Tobin, OBM) "The Decline of Religious Identity in the United States": http://www.jewishresearch.org/PDFs/Religion_Report2.pdf.
Thanks to recent technological advances, confidential surveys can be carried out efficiently, unobtrusively, and for a fraction of what it used to cost.
Contact us for more
information or to arrange a no obligation meeting:
Click here to view a printable brochure containing more information about the Church Congregation Survey service.