Filling out the online annual denominational survey, which is now open and accepting responses, took me about 30 minutes.
All members of a Christian Reformed Church in North America congregation — and I’m one — are invited to take the survey. Since this was my first time doing the survey, I wondered what questions I’d find and whether they would get me thinking more deeply about what it means to worship where I do every Sunday.
It is an anonymous survey, which is important, so that those who fill it out can be honest without worrying that someone will be able to identify them and see their answers. So I’m not disclosing my answers.
But I’m writing this because, as it turns out, I found the survey thought provoking.
Administered by CRCNA staff in cooperation with the Center for Social Research at Calvin College, the survey helps you focus on the strengths and weaknesses of your congregation. It especially helps to give you a sense of what your church means to you — how it affects your relationship with God.
The survey also gives you a chance to reflect on and answer questions that will help the denomination gauge the effect that Our Journey 2020, the CRC’s current five-year ministry plan, is having on churches.
Overall, the survey will provide the denomination a better understanding of where congregations are in relation to various topics relating to ministry, discipleship, and collaboration. The CRCNA can then use the feedback to sort out how its ministries and agencies can best assist churches.
In taking the survey, I reminded myself to be honest — neither to gloss over challenges nor to make things sound better than they are. I gave low marks, neutral reactions, and high marks where they fit.
But I had to spend some time thinking before responding to many questions. For instance, there is this: “My church helps me think through the complex issues facing the world today . . . using kingdom values.” Or this: “Every day I earnestly think about how to apply God’s Word to my life.” Or “Our church is discerning how God is at work in our local community.”
While all of these statements may be true in your context, they aren’t cut and dried; there is wiggle room, and there are grey areas. You have to weigh different situations and perspectives.
Ever since the survey process changed in 2017 from taking place every five years to being conducted annually, the denomination randomly creates one cohort — about 20 percent of churches in the denomination — and strongly encourages them and church members to participate. At the same time, every church and church member can take the survey every year as they feel led.
Churches that were encouraged to participate this year received an email in December with information about the survey and a link to promotional materials to assist in recruitment.
The survey is available in three languages: English, Korean, and Spanish, and participants can choose their preference upon beginning the survey.
Results of previous surveys have shown that many respondents give the church high marks, indicating the denomination works effectively in supporting churches. Respondents also generally give their congregations a high ranking.
Still, the survey poses some challenging questions, giving us a chance to examine our faith and to consider how well we are doing in living out and sharing our faith with Christians as well as non-Christians.
One example struck me as addressing the tough issue of trying to be everything to everyone: “Our church engages in vibrant worship that engages people of all ages.” Do we emphasize one element of worship at the expense of another in our church? Are we too contemporary, too traditional?
Other questions in the survey prompt us to think about the health of our church in comparison to previous years. And we are asked to list the various CRCNA ministries that have either helped us or that we see as being a crucial part of the work of the CRCNA.
When I finished, I had a deeper appreciation for my church, for where it falls short, and for where it is doing a great job. Same for the CRCNA itself.
In the end, I recommend taking the survey. You’ll have a chance to step back and look at what is, for many of us, one of the most important parts of our lives. You’ll be glad you logged in.