Forge survey 2010 A summary of the results and challenges for the future
Starting the journey… It was back in the Autumn of 2009 that I met up with Oliver Westmancott to ask if he would help to devise a survey that would go beyond asking people’s opinions on Church activities and actually go deeper to find out what helps or hinders people’s spiritual health and growth. If part of the responsibility of The Forge leadership is to ensure that we are ‘making disciples’ (Matt 28:19-20), how do we evaluate whether this is really taking place? After studying some of the findings from the ‘Reveal’ research (headed up by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago), Oliver was able to devise a series of questions that would help us understand: • • • • •
where people are on the Spiritual continuum (from explorers and new Christians through to growing and mature Christians) what helps spiritual growth to take place what causes people to stall in their faith what barriers need to be overcome for us to be a more confident faithsharing community a benchmark from which future surveys can be assessed
Going live The online survey went live for three weeks in April/May 2010 and the results reflect the answers given by the 180+ people who chose to take part. The survey was primarily geared towards those in the adult congregation, although a few younger people did complete it, too. Giving feedback Oliver wanted to bring artistry and creativity to the feedback and so he, along with Jo Potts, produced a series of images and word clouds to reveal the information. (To interpret the word clouds, thinkâ€Ś.. the bigger the word, the more frequently that word was used in the answers) I love the work they have put in to bring life and colour to the survey results. I hope you enjoy looking through and considering the observations and questions that this feedback raises.
I’ve been attending the forge for… Steve’s observation: I am delighted that 66% have been with the Church for 5+ years. This gives the Church a strong foundation from which to continue to build. It means that over half the church will have potentially lived and understood the DNA of the Church. I’m also pleased that44% have joined in the last 5 years. It indicates that we continue to have a welcoming, outward focus. Key questions to consider: If 44% have joined in the last 5 years, why haven’t we seen 44% growth? Is thivs a reflection of a natural turn over (people do move away) or are people slipping out of the back door? Why is this happening and what do we need to do to close the back door?
Age: Steveâ€™s observation: The age profile is older than I had thought! Should I be surprised that the largest of the age groups reflects my own age? What this survey doesnâ€™t show is that presently, about one third of the whole Church is under 18 years old. Key questions to consider: What can we do to be more effective in reaching the 18-30s age group? Should we be appointing younger staff members to help attract more people in their teens and twenties?
What I believe: Steve’s observation: I am delighted that the 7% explorers filled in the survey! I love it that we have explorers as part of the Forge community. It keeps us honest and stops us from being an exclusive Christian club! I was surprised that the Christ centred group was only 14%. Key questions to consider: What are the next steps that people need to take to move from where they are now to the next level? As ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ re spiritual development, how can the Church help people to move on in faith without having an overwhelming amount of activities?
I set time aside to… pray, listen to God, read the Bible: Steve’s observation: The results show that as people grow in faith, a greater priority is given to set time aside to read the bible, to pray and listen to God. That’s not a big surprise, I know, but what has triggered this growing desire to spend more time in God’s presence? Key questions to consider: Are these disciplines key to spiritual growth? If so, how can we (and others in our community) develop these practices in our daily lives without them becoming a duty or a legalistic
LISTEN TO GOD
READ THE BIBLE
The Forge provides compelling Sunday services: Steveâ€™s observation: A lot of time, resources and creativity go into shaping our Sunday service experiences and so to have such a high percentage of people (94%) being so positive is very encouraging. I hope this gives people confidence to continue to invite friends each week. Key questions to consider: How will the change to two services shape peopleâ€™s perspective on Sunday services? Will the extra space created by this move encourage us all to be more pro-active in inviting friends?
The Forge challenges me to take next steps and change: Steveâ€™s observation: These results are great news to me! The Bible is not intended to be an informational book but a transformational book. As James writes so clearly in James 1:22 â€œDo not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.â€? I am please that the Forge is having a nurturing role in challenging people to take next steps in their life and faith. Key questions to consider: If people are feeling challenged, how can we encourage that challenge to be actioned/worked out in their lives? Are Small Groups the best place to look for accountability or should we develop more of a one-one mentoring role for people?
What do you love about the Forge that you think your friends would like, too? Steveâ€™s observation: I love this word cloud! To have the prominent words being â€œwelcoming, friendly, lively, relevant, teaching, people, worship, loveâ€? is amazing. Key questions to consider: What are the words that we would have liked to have been more prominent but are either missing completely or in a very small font size? How can we build on the strengths of the Forge?
How did you first start coming to The Forge? Steveâ€™s observation: My reading of this word cloud suggests that the majority of people have come to the Forge for three reasons: Moved into the area, invited by a friend, came because of the children. For me, I love seeing individual names up there â€“ Sharon, Jan, Adam and others. Interestingly, Alpha has been our most successful initiative in seeing people come to faith but it is not the main reason why people first start coming to the Forge. Key questions to consider: If being invited is key to why many have started attending the Forge, how can we build on this and invite more people?
Where do you meet non-Christians: Steveâ€™s observation: Nothing too surprising here! It does highlight the places/people where we can have an influence for good through living out and sharing our faith. Key questions to consider: If we all viewed ourselves as missionaries in these places, how would that affect how we lived and witnessed?
The hardest things about sharing my faith at school/work is: Steve’s observation: There isn’t anything in the word cloud that took me by surprise. I identify with most of these!! Time is a bigger issue for people than I thought it would be (in fact, the issue of ‘time’ is a reoccurring theme throughout the survey!) Key questions to consider: What steps can we take to create the time needed to share our faith with others? What equipping is needed to build people’s passion, knowledge and confidence regarding sharing faith?
What makes you stall in your faith? Steve’s observation: How clever the enemy is in his methods of pulling us away from Christ. No. 1 tactic – make them busy! How interesting that ‘hard times’ is less of an issue than temptation, time and lack of prayer, bible study, etc Key questions to consider: How can we overcome the ‘Busyness’ issue in our lives? How can we encourage each other to practise the spiritual disciples of prayer, bible reading, listening to God, faith sharing, fasting, etc?
I want to belong to a _______ church: Steveâ€™s observation: We all have a very positive view of what kind of church we want to belong to! These words reflect a community that is outward looking, full of life, supportive, inclusive, growing and, most importantly, God centred. Wow, can I be part of this Church please? Key questions to consider: We all play our part in shaping the kind of Church we belong to. What steps can each of us take to build this amazing community described here? What needs to change to enable this to happen?
I grew most in my faith when The Forge: Steve’s observation: I am pleased that small groups play a big part in spiritual growth at The Forge. This is a key part of Church life and I’m glad that it is proving effective. My surprise from this feedback is that Alpha, serving and our mission trips didn’t feature more highly. Key questions to consider: Is what we currently do at The Forge the most effective way of helping people to grow in their faith? What is missing? What should we do less of in order to create time to develop a more effective way?
If I _________, my faith would grow more Steve’s observation: The answers here highlight the personal responsibility that we must all take of owning our personal faith development. Spiritual disciplines are foundational to our growing in faith. John Ortberg describes a spiritual discipline in this way, “‘A spiritual discipline is an activity that can help me gain power to live life as Jesus taught and modelled it.” If this is true, we have to prioritise TIME to do those practices. Key questions to consider: How can we prioritise our personal responsibility of growing spiritually? What teaching, modelling or resources are needed to help people engage with the spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading/studying the Bible, etc. What do we need to start/stop/think differently about in order to create intimate time with Jesus?
In three years time, I want my faith to be: Steve’s observation: It’s hard to miss the overwhelming response from people on this one! My favourite word here is ‘infectious.’ Take some time to look beyond ‘Stronger’ at some of the smaller words. I find people’s ambition toward their faith really inspiring. Key questions to consider: What will it look like if our faith is stronger in three years time? What will be the difference between now and then? If growing a stronger faith is our desire, what needs to take place for this to happen? What is our individual responsibility in this and what part can the Forge play?
Any other commentsâ€Ś Steveâ€™s observation: At the end of the survey we gave people the opportunity to add a comment to the survey. All the comments were anonymous so that people could be honest. I was so encouraged by the fact that people used the opportunity to encourage and support the Forge. We used some of the comments to make this short video which sums them up better than trying to list them all here. http://tinyurl.com/forgesurvey2010