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U.S. Congregational Life Survey -- A Tool for Discovering Your Congregation's Strengths

When was the last time your congregation had its picture taken?

We invite you to participate in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey--an opportunity to take your congregation's picture and learn more about your congregation's strengths.

Answers to some of the most common questions about this project are provided below.

Why take a picture of your congregation?

  • to find out who your worshipers are and what they value
  • to consider new missions or programs
  • to renew or re-evaluate your strategic plan
  • to deal with change when your congregation is growing or declining
  • to get ready to call a new pastor
  • to help a new pastor learn more about the congregation

Why use the U.S. Congregational Life Survey?

The U.S. Congregational Life Survey provides the first accurate picture of religion in America. Almost 300,000 worshipers in more than 2,000 congregations across the U.S. have participated in this survey. These congregations were scientifically selected to be representative of all congregations across the country. By using the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, youíll identify your congregation's unique strengths in comparison to other congregations and find ways to build on those strengths.

Hundreds of congregations from a wide variety of denominations have used this process to plan their future in ways that fit their unique size, community, and dreams.

What do pastors say about the U.S. Congregational Life Survey?

  • "This was a quick, painless way to get a lot of informationĖespecially to see our strengths. It also helped us pinpoint some areas where we want to grow stronger.ĀE
  • ďThank you for the U.S. Congregational Life Survey results! They are exciting!ĀE
  • ďWe are using it to evaluate, plan, and shape some of our future thinking about our church and the various needs of our congregation. The study is a great contribution to the health of churches.ĀE
  • "I waited impatiently for the first results and our congregation's responses, and was again greatly impressed. . . . With the arrival of the Field Guide -- Wow! You did an excellent job of distilling the trends and themes, your charts were clear and helpful, your introduction and comments in each chapter were elegant, the call-out boxes with Myths were an important touch, and, having used cartoons to illustrate presentations and to fill up my office door, I was giggling at the beginning of each chapter. All in all, an extraordinarily well done project!"

What is on the survey?

The survey asks your worshipers about four fundamental building blocks of congregational life ĀE spirituality and faith development, involvement in groups and leadership roles in the congregation, community involvement, and congregational priorities and future directions. (See sample survey in pdf format).

Is this a way to evaluate the pastor?

No, this survey isnít about the pastor--itís about the congregation--especially the people in the pews.

Is this a test? Are there "right answers"?

There are no right or wrong answers.

Who will see our answers?

Your answers are completely confidential; unless you choose to share your results with others, no one outside your congregation will see your worshiperís answers. Youíll send your surveys directly back to our research office. Weíll use an identification number to help us keep track of your congregationís responses, but individual answers are all confidential--in fact, we ask worshipers not to put their names on the survey. Weíll combine the responses of all of your worshipers and provide summary reports telling you what they said.

How should we give the survey? We can't afford to mail it to every member?

The survey is designed to be given in worship on a typical Sunday or other day of worship. Giving the survey in worship is an efficient way to take a snapshot of your congregation including regular worshipers, those who come less often, and visitors. If your congregation has more than one weekly service, the survey should be given in each.

Who Should Participate?

Every worshiper who is at least 15 years old should take part, including ushers, people in the choir, and others who help lead the service.

How much time will this require?

Most worshipers can complete the survey in 15 minutes. Each question is in a quick response format so that worshipers do not write out their answers. We suggest setting aside about 20 minutes to allow time for explanation and for distributing and collecting the surveys.

How can we fit it in our worship service?

Congregations have found a variety of ways to give the survey in worship. Many have found that it works well to set aside the last 20 minutes of each scheduled worship service to distribute the survey. Then, worshipers can leave when they have finished. Our experience shows that if you let worshipers take the surveys home with them, few will return them. To make sure your portrait is accurate, itís essential to give the survey during worship.

When should we conduct the survey?

Itís your decision. Select the week that is most convenient for your congregation. Itís best to pick a week that is typical. Giving the survey on Motherís Day or on a holiday weekend, for example, wouldnít give you an accurate portrait if more visitors than normal attend or if many of your frequent attendees are away. Once you've selected your date, be sure to order surveys at least three weeks in advance.

What will we get when we participate?

Four to six weeks after we receive your completed surveys, you'll receive:

  • The Connections Report -- a customized, 8-page color report that will give you a detailed picture of who your worshipers are, their involvement in the congregation and the community, what they value about the congregation, and their hopes for the future. (See sample Connections Report in Adobe pdf format.)

  • The Strengths Report -- a customized 10-page, color report that shows your congregation's scores on 10 important strengths. The Strengths Report also shows how your congregation compares to other congregations similar to yours in terms of size and denomination or faith group. (See sample Strengths Report in Adobe pdf format.)

  • A video for each report that provides step-by-step instructions for interpreting the report. The videos are designed to facilitate group discussion and to help leaders identify congregational strengths.

  • Two leader's guides with many helpful ideas and tools for making the most of your congregation's reports. (The Connecting Leader's Guide for use with the Connections Report is available in Adobe PDF format for downloading.)

  • Two books that summarize key national findings: A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who's Going Where and Why and Beyond the Ordinary: 10 Strengths of U.S. Congregations (both published by Westminster John Knox Press).

What will this cost?

There are two parts to the fee. First, there is a per survey fee -- $1.00 for every survey ordered. (The per-survey fee is based on the number ordered -- not the numbered returned -- and there is no fee reduction if all surveys are not used.) Second, there is a processing and handling fee -- this fee is based on your congregationís size:

  • Under 100 in worship -- $100 (plus $1 per survey ordered)
  • 100 to 350 in worship -- $250 (plus $1 per survey ordered)
  • Over 350 in worship -- $400 (plus $1 per survey ordered)
Weíll send you all the surveys you need (forms are available in English, Spanish, and Korean), pens to complete them, and instructions for giving the survey in worship. Youíll need to pay for shipping to return the completed surveys to us for processing.

What about other questions we have? How can we sign up?

If you need more information or if youíre ready to get started, please call us toll-free at 1-888-728-7228 ext. 2040. You can also contact us by email at uscongregations@ctr.pcusa.org

What is U.S. Congregations?

U.S. Congregations is a religious research group, housed in the offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Louisville, Kentucky, staffed by religious researchers and sociologists who are conducting the U.S. Congregational Life Survey.




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Last modified June 4, 2004 by U.S. Congregations Home Page Manager