|A Field Guide to
Building Outside Connections
How do PC(USA) congregations connect to the community and to non-members?
Outside Connections consist of inviting others to attend, caring for
neighbors, and welcoming new people.
- Inviting Others
Do PC(USA) worshipers invite others to attend worship services? In the past
12 months, less than half of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations (47%) invited
a friend or relative who does not attend a congregation to their worship
services. This is about the same as the average congregation where 46% asked
someone to attend worship services.
- Reaching Out
How many worshipers contribute to their congregation's outreach or evangelism
efforts? In PC(USA) congregations, 18% join in activities to reach out to the
wider community. This percentage is only slightly higher than the national
picture where 13% report being involved in evangelism or outreach activities.
Q: Do you regularly take part in any activities of this congregation that reach
out to the wider community?
- The Congregation's Inviting Activities
From a list of 14 possible activities, a typical congregation in the U.S.
reports using six strategies to reach out to non-members in the previous year.
Nationally, the most common strategies are encouraging people in the
congregation to invite someone new (reported by 90% of congregations), mailing
a letter to visitors (66%), mailing newsletters or flyers (66%), and
advertising in newspapers or magazines (51%). Presbyterian congregations use
similar strategies at similar rates. On average, PC(USA) congregations listed
seven outreach strategies. The most common are: encouraging people to invite
others (87%), mailing visitors a letter (84%), mailing newsletters (74%),
placing an ad in newspaper or magazine (60%), calling people who visited the
church (52%), visiting people who visited the church (48%), and placing an ad
in the phone book (45%).
- Serving the Community
Are PC(USA) worshipers involved in community service, social justice, or
advocacy activities? About half of PC(USA) worshipers take part in service or
advocacy activities. Almost one-third overall join in community service
activities organized through their congregation (30% in PC(USA)
congregations take part in such groups). Even more (43% in PC(USA)
congregations) participate in social service or advocacy groups not
connected to their congregation. This is another area where Presbyterians
excel. Just 19% of worshipers overall are involved in service or advocacy
through their congregation, and 31% serve their communities through groups not
connected to their congregation.
Q: Are you involved in any community services, social service, or advocacy
- Good Neighbors; Good Citizens
Worshipers in Presbyterian pews are especially good neighbors and good
citizens. They are more likely to have prepared or given food for someone
outside their family or congregation, made a contribution to a charitable
organization other than their congregation, voted in the last presidential
election, and worked on community problems or issues. Given that just 50% of
the American adult population voted in the last election, it is particularly
noteworthy that worshipers in general, and Presbyterians in particular, voted
at such high rates.
|Prepared or gave food
|Helped someone find a job
|Cared for someone who was sick
|Contributed to charitable organization other than their
|Voted in last presidential election
|Worked on solving community problem
|Contacted official about public issue
- Welcoming New People
How many new people attend Presbyterian worship services? Three in ten of
those attending worship services at PC(USA) congregations have been coming for
five years or less about the same as the national figure (34%). Visitors make
up 3% of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations, somewhat less than the national
average of 6% of worshipers who are visitors.
Q: How long have you been going to worship services or activities at this
- Knowing New People
What type of faith background is typical of the new people in PC(USA) congregations? New people (those attending
five years or less) come from four different faith backgrounds: First-timers (8% in PC(USA) congregations) are
those who have never regularly attended anywhere; Returnees (27%) are those who are coming back after not
attending anywhere for several years; Switchers (36%) are those who previously participated in another congregation
with a different faith tradition; and Transfers (30%) are those who were participating in another PC(USA)
congregation immediately prior to attending their current PC(USA) congregation. Presbyterian congregations do a
better job than other types of congregations in attracting Returnees and Switchers, but all types of congregations
have difficulty attracting First-timers.
New People: Attending for five years or less
- Getting There
Do worshipers come from the immediate community or do they travel some
distance to attend? PC(USA) congregations are neighborhood churches more than
half of people in PC(USA) congregations (62%) take 10 minutes or less to get
to worship services, and nearly everyone in PC(USA) congregations (91%)
travels 20 minutes or less to attend services. Across all American
congregations, 88% arrive in 20 minutes or less.