How do congregations use their results from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey?
Congregations that make the most use of their results are ones that make it part of a general mission study, collective discernment, or strategic planning process. We learned this from systematic feedback gathered from congregations that participated in the survey.
Congregations that participate in the survey receive three reports summarizing and analyzing the results, along with two books, two videos, and three guides for how to use the results as a catalyst for discussion and discernment within their congregations. (Learn more about these resources.) Feedback revealed that different congregations use different resources. One of the favorite resources is the Strengths Report.
Engagement of congregations with their results varies. One congregation made participating in the survey and analyzing the survey results the centerpiece of an 18-month study process. In other cases, a pastor or other congregation leader looked over the results and shared them with no one else. More typically, a planning group or survey team reviewed the results and shared them in various ways with others in the congregation.
In past years, a few congregations have posted the reports summarizing their survey results on their congregational Web sites, partly as a way to communicate the results with others in the congregation. More recently, congregations have had the option of sharing with members and worshipers information about how to access the reports on the U.S. Congregations Web site. This has made it easier to widely share the congregation’s results.
Many congregations that participated in the survey made changes in their congregations as a result of their participation. Worshipers of one congregation reconsidered the church’s downtown location and ended up recommitting to the downtown area. Other congregations organized healing services and spiritual retreats to address worshipers’ unmet emotional and spiritual needs. Still other congregations became more intentional both about reaching out to friends and neighbors to let them know about church ministries and about being hospitable to those who visited worship.
The outside researchers who gathered feedback from participating congregations concluded: “In our current society, organizations tend to get overloaded with information requests and reports. This results in many reports being unused or ignored. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey process is unique and remarkable. It clearly helps a substantial number of congregations. In fact, we were impressed with the number of instances where congregational representatives cited direct and specific benefits of the survey process. Not every congregation can benefit and not every congregation is ready for the experience. But for those who are ready and seek information, the survey process is impressive and valuable.”
Is your congregation ready for the experience? Learn more about taking the survey.