This survey provides your church with a tool to gather information about your neighborhood and community. Conducting a survey can be invaluable if your church is unfamiliar with the community whether you are planning Faith in Action projects, considering ongoing ministry opportunities, or simply looking for ways to get to know your neighbors better.
Surveys are best conducted door-to-door by pairs of church members. This creates opportunities for your congregation to develop relationships and name recognition in the process. A survey can make a lasting impression–on those who conduct the survey and on those they visit. If most church members are not from the neighborhood, considering pairing a church member with a local resident who knows the people in the community. This helps to build trust and credibility.
You also can adapt surveys for use with those served by Faith in Action projects. For example, if your church helps serve a meal at a soup kitchen, invite (don’t require) participation from those who partake in the meal, as well as from regular soup kitchen volunteers. Not only do you get the benefit of the information, you also communicate a message of caring: “Your opinions and ideas matter to us!”
Although the primary purpose of the survey is not evangelistic, you can be sensitive to the spiritual and personal needs of the people you contact. If people have immediate needs, you can ask how the church might be able to help. If you offer prayer or aid, however, be sure you follow up and keep your promises! Enlist volunteers to pray for the needs revealed through the survey.
After finishing each survey, you can give participants an invitation card to join upcoming Faith in Action events. While the purpose of conducting the survey is to gather information, not to attract people to your church, survey participants may ask about your church. To help answer these questions, be sure to have a brochure or flyer that features your church programs and worship services that you can share with them. After each survey is completed, follow up with a thank-you note to residents who completed the survey to show your appreciation for their time. This gives you another opportunity to invite people’s participation in Faith in Action.
On the next page is a sample survey. The questions are open-ended, with space for survey-takers to write in people’s responses. You can adapt or add questions as appropriate. For example, you can list several possible initiatives that are being considered by the church and ask people which ones they think are best suited to their current needs. If you already have a service project in mind, you can change question #3 to ask: “Our church is considering doing …… in this neighborhood. Do you have any suggestions for how you’d like to see us do this?”
Adapted with permission from Becoming a Church That Makes a Difference CD-ROM, by Heidi Unruh and Phil Olson (Word & Deed Network, 2006), www.esa-online.org.