Using a survey is a good way to better understand your congregation or specific subgroups of your religious community. Surveys also have their limits. “How old are you?” is a good candidate for a survey question. “How do you feel about the younger generation?” is not so good. Explore more below!

Getting Started

By asking general demographic information, such as age, race, gender, and length of time attending, you can get a big-picture view. You can also use a survey to better understand things like preferences for worship times or habits of participation. Surveys are good for summarizing things that can easily be reported as a yes or no, as one of a few clear options, or as a simple fill-in-the-blank. Where your questions are more subjective or difficult to answer concisely, save them for an interview or focus group.
When deciding to do a survey, one of the first questions you should ask is “who should receive the questionnaire?” If you’re interested in youth and young adult perceptions of the worship service, you may not need to distribute a survey to the whole community. Match the research question with the people for whom it is most appropriate. If you’re interested in understanding all of the members’ views, it might be important to send the surveys out to everyone on the mailing (or e-mail) list. If you are most interested in the people who regularly participate, then distribution at routine events may work well.

Good survey questions are an art form, and there are a number of guides for learning the art. Some are produced by academic groups, and some by online survey companies. Take the time to look at these guides, and then go back to review once you’ve written some draft questions.

Download the full PDF resource to learn more about developing questions, administering the survey and analyzing the results.

Using Surveys To Understand Your Congregation

Our Studying Congregations Tool Kit features easy to use quick guides for better understanding a community of faith. This PDF download is ideal for religious leaders, seminarians and anyone else who wants to learn how to develop a survey or questionnaire to better understand a congregation.
The Tool in Action

Gender & Congregational Life Survey

Studying congregations always means paying attention to the different ways people are involved – especially the differences between men and women. Now, researchers at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, are taking that question to a new level. They want to know how those patterns differ in Christian groups…

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