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Denominational Survey Opens

February 16, 2022

Members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America are invited to participate in the annual denominational survey, which is now open and accepting responses.

For the past six years, this survey has been conducted annually as a way to provide staff and synod with a snapshot of how the church is faring.

As part of this process, all Christian Reformed congregations have been assigned to one of five cohorts, each of which includes a sampling of churches that reflect the diversity and make-up of the denomination.

Each year, one cohort — or 20 percent of the denomination — is specifically invited to participate in the survey. The churches in this group are asked to strongly encourage their members to participate in the survey to ensure a robust number of responses. To assist them in this promotion, the CRCNA has created several promotional tools.

Churches and members who are not part of this year’s cohort are still welcome to participate. That’s because while only one-fifth of congregations are asked to strongly promote the survey each year, the survey is open to all CRC churches and members every year.

The denominational survey is used to help the CRCNA listen to individual church members, gauge how ministry is affecting the churches and the denomination, and assist in planning for the future. Available in English, Spanish, and Korean, the survey can be found here.

The survey is anonymous and does not track any identifying information about you other than your congregation's name and some of its administrative attributes. Please answer openly and honestly.

The survey is administered by CRCNA staff in cooperation with the Calvin University Center for Social Research.

“Together with you, we seek to conduct surveys not as the world might do, to exploit human weaknesses for worldly gain, but as heaven would, to learn together how to invite God to infuse his strength into our many shared weaknesses to minister to God’s people, especially to the weak and vulnerable among us,” CRCNA leaders wrote in a letter about the survey.

Results from last year's survey show that 222 churches were invited to recruit responses to the survey. And a total of 2,116 people from 143 churches responded.

The survey results provide a glimpse of what congregations are thinking on various topics and show where the denomination can assist them in such areas as discipleship or collaboration. They also serve as a means of measuring change in the four milestones of Our Journey 2025, the CRCNA Ministry Plan.

Results from 2017-2020 looked at the five desired futures of the previous ministry plan: Our Journey 2020. The report from these surveys strongly affirms and reflects the broad, holistic, theological, devotional, and ethical commitments of the Reformed tradition.

“On one hand, congregants confirm, year after year, that their local church is full of desirable futures. Large majorities affirm that their congregations are ‘shaped by grace,’ urge them to apply the Bible to all of life, help them build relationships, nurture the faith of children, and offer a spiritual home to people of all generations,” said the 2017-2020 report.

“On the other hand, substantive comments are predominantly negative and critical, reflecting anxiety about the aging demographic trends coupled with dismay over changing denominational identity, heightened worldly cultural influence on the church, and an increased focus on social justice initiatives that they distrust as politically motivated.

“How do we address and reconcile these tensions? First, we have few challenges that differ from North American social groups whose socioeconomic status resembles our own. The participating, predominantly Anglo/Caucasian and Dutch English-speaking congregations have an unusually well-educated and wealthy population of congregants. Education and wealth are everywhere associated with fewer marriages, delayed timing of marriage and childbirth, fewer children, and a growing share of retirees and elderly people.

“Second, it’s not unusual that a substantial share of CRCNA congregants are increasingly distrustful of remote institutions; that trend is decades old and applies to a great many institutions, public and private. The position of some fiercely critical commenters—that their local congregation is biblically faithful but the wider denomination is not—is broadly similar to the way many citizens profess to admire their local district’s political representative but despise the legislature that representative serves in.

“Our challenge is not to dismiss the reality that a significant and vocal share of our congregants may mistrust our denominational leadership and agencies for legitimate reasons, yet to recognize that those reasons may not be entirely addressable independent of broader changes in the wider church and society.

“This is not to say that the denomination and all its congregations and congregants can do nothing. On the contrary, we can do what our governance-rich tradition disposes us to do: to talk and act together, systematically and directly, to work on the trust dynamic itself, addressing rebuilding trust as a problem independent of disagreements about theology, worship, and ethics.

“Social science offers extensive evidence that interpersonal trust—social capital—is a product of social interaction. But CRC congregants report in the survey that some such interactions are infrequent. Many congregants say they don’t talk with others about their spiritual life. Most congregants do not perceive much direct collaboration among congregations on the Christian mission.

“Comments indicate that awareness of denominational activities is lower than they would like, especially in geography far from the denominational center of gravity in Grand Rapids, Mich. Our tradition is well equipped to have such conversations. We take Scripture seriously when it says not to give up meeting together, we have orderly governance practices, and we have long believed that political process and enfranchisement are part of our response to God’s call to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Visit this page to take this year’s survey.