Posted by: Philip Rushton | June 19, 2012

Spiritual Formation Survey: Results and Initial Conclusions

I want to thank everyone who participated in our spiritual formation survey a few weeks back. We had a total of 232 surveys filled over the two Sundays in April that we offered it. I also want to thank Bob Gaston for spending many hours helping me plug all the data into the computer so that we could generate results and reports.

The purpose of this survey was to help us know where people are at spiritually and how we might facilitate spiritual growth in the coming year. We received a lot of data, so this report will not touch on everything. I have prepared a longer 8-page report that was reviewed at the board level, which is available upon request.

I. WHERE WE ARE AT

There was some encouraging statistics that came out of this survey. One thing we discovered was that 24% (57 people) of those taking the survey are new to our church in the last 3 years. This suggests that there has been some significant growth and retention of newcomers. There was also a strong indication that people feel connected to our church. 75% of our congregation indicated that they frequently or always feel connected, compared to only 5% who said they seldom or never feel connected.

It is hard to put numbers to spiritual growth. So our approach was to ask questions that allowed people to tell us how they feel about their spiritual journey and how often they engage with biblical practices and relationships that are known to promote spiritual growth.

The majority of our congregation indicated that they were experiencing some growth. However, there is a significant segment, (11%), that feel stalled in their journey. Furthermore, only 43% of the congregation indicated a sense that their spiritual life was growing significantly or thriving.

We currently have about 55% of our congregation connected to some type of small group in the church. This is higher then the average in a lot of churches, which is often closer to 33%; however, it shows some room for growth. The more telling statistic is that only 47% of our people said they have people who regularly keep them accountable spiritually.

The survey also showed that there is room for growth when it comes to our regular practice of scripture reading and prayer. While 77% of us indicated that prayer is the one of the most significant ways we feel connected to God, it appears that only about 44% of people have a regular rhythm of bible reading and extended prayer in their life. About 1/3 of our congregation indicated that these practices were seldom or never part of their weekly routine.

II. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

We polled the congregation to get a sense of how the church could facilitate spiritual growth. The encouraging news was that 85% of the congregation indicated that the church is currently providing adequate opportunities for growth. Many of you indicated that the bigger challenge was to carve out space to participate in the life of the church. In fact, 43% of people not in groups said the main barrier to joining was that their schedule was too full. So spiritual growth requires a lot of personal initiative.

Nevertheless, it was helpful for us as leaders to listen to the ways our church could facilitate growth.


The following chart indicates some interesting trends. For one thing it suggests that small groups or are not the only way people grow. In fact, the majority of people indicated an interest in more structured learning environments. This suggests that we should continue to offer a variety of learning environments. This parallels a lot of recent trends in church research these days. While it used to be in vogue to push a “small groups only” strategy, many churches are discovering that there is still a need for different learning settings. We will continue to grow our small group ministry, but we are also wanting to continue to develop our Wednesday night and Sunday morning education program for adults.

A couple of topics that rose to the top of peoples interest list were a course on discerning and using our spiritual gifts, and a course on basic Christian beliefs. We will develop courses in these areas this coming fall and winter.

Another interesting statistic suggests that many people (30%) are looking for opportunities and resources to grow personally. In fact, 19% of people said that the reason they are not in a group is because they are growing and connecting without one. Also, 24% of our congregation said they preferred personal study to group interaction.

One of the interesting findings in Willow Creek’s national survey on spiritual formation, was that as people move further along in their journey, structured church programs become more peripheral and personal initiatives are more important. This is something we need to attend to in our congregation as 89% of those filling out the survey indicated that they have been a Christian for more then 10 years.

This, coupled with the fact that many people indicated that they do not have a regular rhythm of study and prayer, suggests that we need to continually encourage and provide opportunities for people to personally engage the spiritual practices. This summer we are going to experiment with providing a life-journal process and reading schedule to coincide with the sermon series.

Thanks again to all who participate in this survey. This was an experiment on our end. We learned a lot about what questions were helpful and what questions needed to be re-worked. We will continue to seek insight from you in the future as we works towards our mission of being a church where we believe, grow and serve in the name of Jesus together!

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Responses

  1. Lifting the Rushton family in prayer today…

    Thanks Phil for another great opportunity to study the word together. I already have questons from the last 2 days of readings…more to come. I’m sure. Along with the questions, is that joy of being quiet for a brief time before the Lord.

    I so appreciated the survey report. Thanks for the effort. I remember what drew Dave and me to LVCC 37 years ago was not only the children’s ed, but
    also adult ed classes that addressed issues relevant to everyday living…parenting, marriage, etc. Could not agree more with the idea of folks being equipped and inspired to move out into the community with its many needs.

    Grateful,

    gail


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