What do they really think?
How much do you know about the people who join you at church every Sunday? The leaders at Harper Church in Glasgow were keen to know more about their growing congregation to be able to serve them better. So they came up with a solution to hear everyone’s views.
It’s often hard for church leaders to get to know everyone who worships with them Sunday by Sunday. It’s particularly tough for a growing and changing church – an eldership can’t always build close relationships with everyone.
So how can a church like this best serve those who attend every week? How can leaders make sure that believers are being discipled and are growing spiritually, when they cannot have in-depth conversations with everyone regularly?
These sorts of questions encouraged us at Harper Church – an FIEC church in Glasgow – to come up with a solution. A church survey.
As leaders, we asked those who worship at Harper (both members and regular attenders) a number of questions about specific topics. This approach allowed us to get detailed responses from a wide range of people on all of the key issues.
Some of the questions that were asked were personal, focusing on people’s professional and spiritual lives. Other questions were about the church and its activities, both on a Sunday and during the week.
The personal questions helped us to understand the demographics of those worshipping with us every week, while the questions about the church gave the opportunity for helpful feedback to shape the work and ministry at Harper.
It has helped us to understand the issues we need to give great thought and consideration to. For example, there appeared to be a fairly strong reaction against the church investing in evangelism by employing an evangelist. However, we also discovered that at present only 41% of our respondents regularly share their faith with non-Christians. So it will be important to think through how we can build congregational capacity for evangelism and what (if any) role an evangelist could play in that.
At the end of the survey, respondents were asked if they had any other comments about church life that hadn’t been covered, allowing the elders to receive a rounded assessment of how people are growing in their faith through the ministry of the church.
We published the results of the survey in early 2017 and those results will continue to help the church leadership as we think about the future.
The survey outcomes have been fascinating. They have enabled us to test our perceptions against reality and understand where we are strong and where we need to improve. We have learned all sorts of lessons from the process and our elders will be working through the results of the survey to identify key changes.
An example of that is we’ve learned that we need to re-think our approach to pastoral care to accommodate the growth we’ve experienced. It was also interesting to note that despite the church seeing growth in recent years, the majority of people attending Harper did not become Christians here.
As leaders, we recognise that a key prayer point for the future must be to see the number of people saved by the Lord in and through the ministry of Harper Church increasing in the years to come.
We will probably run the survey every couple of years to make sure we keep listening and keep learning.
We used an online tool called Survey Monkey to conduct the research.
If you are interested in conducting a similar survey amongst your church, here are a few sample questions from Harper’s survey which you might consider asking.
How long would you say you have been a Christian?
- I wouldn’t describe myself as a Christian
- Less than a year
- 1-5 years
- 6-10 years
- 11+ years
How often do you read your Bible?
- Every day
- Most days
- Once a week
- Once a month
- Very rarely
How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements about preaching at the church?
- Having a preaching team is valuable and beneficial
- Preaching at Harper is consistently biblical
- Preaching at Harper is consistently clear and understandable
- Preaching at Harper consistently connects with contemporary life
- I’m consistently challenged by the preaching
- The preaching helps prepare me for life in the world
- I regularly talk to others about what I’m learning from the preaching
- Thinking of the recent Isaiah series – I have sensed God speak to me through his Word
- Thinking of the recent James series – I have sensed God speak to me through his Word
How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements about Pastoral Care?
- Harper is a church where people are cared for
- It is my responsibility to be actively involved in caring for others
- The pastor/elders should be the primary pastoral carers
- The pastoral care teams should be the primary pastoral carers
- The whole fellowship should be the primary pastoral carers
- Pastoral care at Harper is done well