Jim Sweeney • January 18, 2018
If you often spend your time counseling people and offering advice, you might have a wonderful pulse on what certain members of your congregation are thinking.
But chances are, you’re hearing from only the most vocal and engaged minority who may not be representative of the entire membership. And relying upon a few to gauge what your entire membership is thinking can lead to mistaken conclusions.
Surveys (with the option to retain anonymity) are a great way to attain a more complete understanding of what members are thinking. There's no "right" way to do a survey – some churches use them only when there is a pressing issue; others send them monthly, quarterly, or even annually. The interest and responsiveness of your congregation will help you decide how often to survey.
Many churches use software programs like SurveyMonkey or Google Surveys, which make it easy to build a questionnaire and collect the data. There are also companies that specialize in surveying congregations.
This post outlines a few things to keep in mind when building a survey:
People are more likely to complete a short survey than a long one. Don’t try to cover too much ground in one survey.
Know what you want to learn and structure the questions accordingly.
Let people know the survey is coming and remind them after it’s sent. Strongly encourage them to complete it. The more responses you get, the more information you have.
These are easier and faster for people to answer. For example, if you want to know when Sunday services should be, offer specific choices: 8:30, 9:30, 10:00 etc.
People tend to skip questions like, “How could the church improve?” and the answers can be too vague to be useful.
It’s easy for whomever is writing the questions to allow their opinions to ask leading questions that point toward a desired conclusion. Avoid those. Try to keep the questions unbiased.
People want to know the results of the survey they took, and sharing the information makes it more likely that they will participate in the next survey.
Use the knowledge you gain from the survey results to guide the congregation and let the members know you’re responding to their wishes.
If you’ve never conducted a survey, don't worry! Chances are there is someone in the congregation who has. Ask for help. There are also excellent resources online which can help.
If you're wondering the best place to conduct your online survey, consider leveraging your church newsletter! This post gives some tips on how to write a church newsletter that people will actually read.