Engaging your Community: Community Surveys
Why a Survey?
An essential component of any church’s mission is its knowledge of the surrounding community. Any new mission initiative which involves the local community—directly or indirectly—ought to begin with a community survey. Whether you are planning to re-develop your premises or hire a families worker, gathering information from people who live in the area immediately surrounding your church/chapel can help you focus your project and grant applications. Carrying out a survey can help you discover hidden needs within your community as well as find possible partners for your project. It is also the case that many—if not most—funders will want to know whether you have carried out a community survey before they can offer your project a grant.
What Kind of Survey?
There are various ways to gather information from the local community:
- These can include questions with tick box answers as well as questions to elicit responses from the community. Offer choices and options, but make certain there is opportunity for individual responses.
- Whatever form your questionnaire should take, make certain that it does not contain too many questions; and try it out with several people before launching it. Keep it simple.
- Questionnaires can be carried out door-to-door by volunteers—‘clipboard style’—or they can be delivered by post. If the latter, be sure to include a postage paid return envelope.
- Another method is to drop the questionnaires at the door and then collect them on another day and/or have collection boxes at local shops, Post Offices, schools and surgeries.
- Invite community groups to your church or to a village hall in order to seek their views. Offer people the chance to rank ideas in order of importance. Make certain you have several scribes on hand to capture comments, ideas and concerns.
- If your project is the re-development of your building for greater community use, then invite people to a coffee morning (or evening!) and have them wander round the premises and provide them with post-it notes to jot down their ideas. Have volunteers gather the notes and arrange them into emerging themes.
- If your project is targeted at a specific group in the community—e.g. young families—then make certain that the potential user group has representation on your project steering group. Again, grant-funders will often enquire about this.
The above examples of community surveys are not meant to be exhaustive; rather, they are some of the most common means of gathering information. If your church is in a rural area, then you might wish to contact your county’s Rural Community Council or ACRE affiliate (Action with Communities in Rural England) for ideas regarding community surveys.
Finally, be sure to collate the information you receive in an organized fashion. Tables and pie charts are often effective ways of displaying the information. If the information you have gathered runs to several pages, then be sure to prepare a summary that can be included as an appendix with grant applications.
As always, if you have further questions, please feel free to contact me. I am always happy to assist.
On the following pages you will find examples of surveys, public meetings, etc. that have been used by other churches.