Listening to Your Congregation
Two Simple Ways to Discover the Deep Values and Longings of Your Church.
An essential stage of discerning your church’s direction is identifying the values, longings, and desired future of the people who make up your congregation. Hierarchal vision casting—or direction mandated by a small group of powerful individuals—can have a detrimental impact on the health and vibrancy of a congregation. When you as a ministry leader give your congregation a voice in its direction, you are opening yourself to the Holy Spirit’s nudges and the possibilities will grow far beyond your own limited imagination. Here are two ideas to make this happen:
1. Offer a simple congregational survey.
Think about what information is most important for your leadership team to learn. Create a simple questionnaire with clear and concise open-ended questions that will help you learn about how your congregation thinks about this. Offer the survey in paper form and online (Google Forms is free and easy to use). Distribute it during worship and collect it the following week. Email it out to all of your email lists. Share why it’s important for folks to participate.
I created a congregational survey on Google Forms that you can edit, adapt, and use for free:
2. Offer congregational focus groups.
A focus group is a number of people brought together by an organization in hopes of receiving feedback about a product or initiative. I recently participated in a Zoom focus group for my favorite sports team. The team was seeking feedback about how they might improve the game day experience for fans. I enjoyed hearing from the other fans who shared, but the most impactful thing for me was how good it felt to be heard.
A few things to think about: Who should be in the focus group? A diverse group of people is ideal. I would recommend no more than 10 participants in each focus group but feel free to host multiple ones. Open the focus group with an overview of the process and the purpose of the gathering. Be sure to set some guidelines at the beginning as well (one person talking at a time, respect people who have differing opinions, confidentiality, etc). Try to keep the conversation to an hour. Consider offering participants a small token of appreciation for their time (a book, a small gift card, etc).
A few questions you might ask:
Tell us what drew you to this church at first?
What brings you back to the church week after week?
What are three words you would use to describe this church?
Where should we focus our energy and resources going forward?
As you carry out this process of listening to your congregation be sure to record what you hear and compile the data you receive in a way that can help you discern future steps.