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A worship survey example from a midsized church

By Eric Seiberling

First United Methodist Church of Wapakoneta, a midsized church in Ohio, recently underwent a pastoral change. During the initial meet-the-pastor meeting, people asked questions and made comments related to worship service times and formats. As a result, the worship committee decided to use a survey to gather data on current preferences related to worship, service times and formats. They would use the data to develop an objective view of the current state of worship and suggest potential changes.

Objective: Understand worship preferences to decide how to adjust worship times and formats to raise satisfaction and attract 19- to 49-year-olds.

Target: Start with surveying those who attend worship. Every person age 13 and older was invited to complete a survey. A different survey would be used for non-church attenders.

Design: The survey had 14 questions focused on current satisfaction, preferred worship times and preferred worship styles. Additional questions were asked to understand the importance of key aspects of worship along with an open-ended question to obtain basic feedback. Basic demographic questions based on age grouping and household members were also included to aid analysis. The survey included 14 questions and took three to five minutes to complete.

Execution: Surveys were paper-based and distributed during worship, along with an explanation of the objective of the survey. Individuals were asked to put their name on the survey to track completion, and the names were later blacked out. The survey was open for three weeks.

Analysis: During the three-week survey period, 159 surveys were completed successfully. This represented approximately an 85-percent response rate, which provided an accurate reflection of the congregation's thoughts, desires and preferences. Data was analyzed, using frequency counts as well as cross-tab analysis based on satisfaction, worship style preference and age groups.

Results: The results were summarized within one week of the survey closing and shared first with the administrative council. The following Sunday, the key findings were shared with the congregation during worship. The full report of findings and frequency counts were made available at the Welcome Center to provide full transparency.

An interesting thing happened through the survey process. Satisfaction improved with both the church and the leadership just by conducting the survey and reporting the results in a timely fashion. In the past, surveys were conducted, but few people listened to the results. Now people felt they were heard, and the collected data moved the conversation from individual preferences to what would help the church do a better job of reaching adults ages 19 to 49. The church became more open to the possibility of changes in worship times and launching a new service based on the survey results.