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Sidestepping Pitfalls in Congregational Research

Church surveys can help -- but only under certain conditions.

Scarcely a week goes by that I do not get at least one telephone call from a pastor who says, "We're going to do a congregational survey. Do you have any questionnaires you can send me?"

My standard response is to ask why the pastor wants to do the research. The replies vary:

Because I have heard you recommend it.

I have just come back from a church growth conference, and it sure sounds like a good idea.

Our attendance is way down at the Wednesday service. We need to find out how to get people to come.

We're having problems in the adult class. I need to identify the causes.

My answer to such requests often brings surprise. Invariably I say, "No, I don't have any questionnaires to send you."

My reason is simple: There is no such thing as a standard survey for churches. Some church consultants offer them, but look before you leap.

Once I was in a pastor's office, and he showed me two inches of computer print-out. "What do I do now?" he asked. He was snowed with research, because no one had bothered ...

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