Learn which questions to ask to help you better meet your congregation’s needs.
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The holidays are a time to focus on the good in the world and brush negative thoughts aside in the spirit of the season. At least that’s the message I took away from all the Christmas movies I watched growing up.
This especially holds true at churches, where Christmas services are typically among the highest attended of the entire year, and the warmth and tradition of the season can encourage a positive outlook and increased giving.
Like drifting snow covering curbside litter, the obligatory good cheer of the holidays can temporarily put problems with your church out of mind.
But what happens when the snow starts to melt, attendance wanes, and things go back to the way they were before the holiday season? Do you tighten your belt, hunker down, and wait for the Easter attendance spike?
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Or do you take action and find out what would make your congregation as excited to come to church in February as they were in December?
One great way to find out what your congregation and visitors are looking for is with a church membership questionnaire. A questionnaire allows you to poll church members on what they enjoy about your church, what they feel is lacking, and whatever is on their mind about their church experience in general.
Survey software can make the process much easier, especially when used in conjunction with the member database in your church management system.
What church survey questions should I be asking?
Distributing a survey is one thing, but you also need to know what questions to ask on the survey. And to do that, you’ll need to know what direction you’re trying to take your church in. Are you looking to boost attendance, or trim spending, or expand to new locations? Each situation calls for different questions.
As Brett Andrews, lead pastor of New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, Virginia, says, “You don’t always have to have a goal, as long as you have a direction.”
Let’s take a look. But first, a few general tips on crafting church survey questions:
- Keep your survey as succinct as possible. The longer it is, the less likely it is that someone will take the time to complete it thoughtfully.
- Leave space for optional comments. You don’t want to prevent someone from sharing what’s on their mind just because you didn’t specifically ask about it.
- Whatever technology you use to distribute the survey, allow respondents the option to fill it out manually. The more responses you get, the clearer the picture, so it should be as accessible as possible.
- Request basic demographic information such as age, sex, and residence, and other basic info such as frequency and years of attendance, so that you can track trends.
Church survey questions to boost attendance
If your goal is to boost attendance, you should take a two-pronged approach: make sure that your regulars are happy so they’ll continue to attend, and also find ways to evolve to make sure that your church is an appealing destination for new visitors.
Here are several sample questions to help you illuminate the path to increased attendance:
- What do you most enjoy about attending services here?
- What, if anything, would you change about attending services here?
- Would you recommend this church to a friend or family member? Why or why not?
- What are some ways that you think we could make our church family more welcoming for new visitors?
- Have you attended a different church in the last year? If so, what—if anything—did you enjoy about that church that is different from our church?
What to look for: When you get these surveys back, keep an eye out for things that your members enjoy about attending services at your church, but be even more aware about what they’re missing.
Do your members wish that they could get a cup of coffee on their way in? Hook it up! It’s a small price to pay for keeping your loyal members happy and maybe even attracting some new members.
Church survey questions to trim spending
In his book, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church,” Thom Rainer writes, “In dying churches the last expenditures to be reduced are those that keep the members most comfortable.”
Indeed, a healthy budget is one of the most important vital signs of a healthy, growing church. Any church can find a way to spend more money: on ministries, facilities, or even just charitable giving.
But if your budget is out of whack and you’re spending more money than is coming in through donations, you need to trim the fat.
Here are five questions to help find places to cut:
- Among our service times, which do you usually attend, and which are you least likely to attend?
- Which of the following ministry opportunities are you most interested in participating in during the coming year? (List upcoming ministries)
- Which of the following ministries are you least interested in participating in during the coming year? (List upcoming ministries)
- Which of the following amenities (free coffee bar, mission trips, church barbecue/field day) do you enjoy the most?
- Which of the following outreach programs would you be most interested in volunteering with? (List outreach programs)
What to look for: By determining which services and ministries are the most popular, and which are just going through the motions, you can zero in on where to focus your spending and resources to get the most in return. Church attendance tracking can also be a valuable tool for figuring out which programs could most benefit from additional funding.
Coming at it from a different approach, you can also look for which programs your members are most interested in volunteering in. If someone wants to donate their time to do something, it’s a good indicator that it is a worthwhile investment.
Church survey questions for churches looking to expand
Surveying your congregation is one of the most important parts of the church planting process.
If your church is looking to open a new location, you’re in good company. To get here, you’ve created an environment that people want to be a part of, you’re spending your money and resources wisely, and you’re ready to grow beyond the walls of your current location.
This process is more complicated than just opening a new location across town, though.
Here are some questions to ask if you’re looking to expand:
- Which religious services, if any, do you avoid because they are too crowded? (Include worship services, Bible study, etc.)
- Have you ever attended—or considered attending—church online instead of in person?
- How far do you travel to attend our church, and where do you travel from?
- Have you recommended our church to friends or family in the area? If so, where do they live?
- If we were to open a new location, which members of our leadership team do you think would be best suited to help launch the new location?
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What to look for: By asking these questions, you can determine if crowding is becoming an issue, or not, and if livestreaming your services—or even starting a dedicated online campus—might help alleviate some of the overcrowding.
You can also hone in on which area of your region would make the most sense to expand to. Finally, a new location will require some of your staff to relocate as well. Your congregation deserves to have some input on this process.
What questions do you want answered?
These examples are just that, but hopefully thinking about them has at least greased the wheels a little in your own mind. If you have any church survey questions of your own that have been useful for your congregation, please share them with your fellow church leaders in the comments.
Also, if your vigor for church improvement has been piqued, check out these other helpful articles:
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