Integrating the survey into your liturgy
Previous experience suggests that the most effective way to run the survey is to set aside 20 minutes in the middle of the service for people to complete it. Anyone who needs more time can complete it at the end. We suggest you avoid special events, e.g. Baptisms, to give you a more regular and reliable sample of attenders.
Many churches have found that it is best placed during intercessions, with worshippers asked to commend to God the different aspects of church life which the questions explore. In this case, the survey forms would be filled in after prayer, and when completed, presented with the offering.
Others set aside time before the closing song and blessing, in which case participants could be asked to think about their answers in the light of their being 'sent forth' to continue their part in God's mission.
Consider carefully how the available time may be best used
1. Fewer Lectionary readings could be used
2. Lengthy or highly repetitious songs could be avoided
3. Consider providing more stations than usual to administer Holy Communion
4. Instead of having verbal announcements, include them in written form on a pewslip
Prayers for use in a worship service
We provide a selection of prayers below for your use when running the National Church Life Survey. You might like to choose a prayer to use before people start filling in their survey forms, or as a take-home prayer, printed in the weekly bulletin for a month ahead of the survey, for people to pray themselves.
While they may be used more widely, some prayers were prepared with particular faith communities in mind.
Selection of prayers:
• Petitions from which to choose a Prayer of the Faithful
• A prayer regarding the National Church Life Survey
• A prayer about being part of a Christian Community
• A prayer about the purpose of the National Church Life Survey
• A prayer about taking part in the National Church Life Survey
• A prayer for all ages including Children
Petitions from which to choose a Prayer of the Faithful
1. We pray for all church communities who are undertaking the National Church Life Survey, that the outcomes will help the Church to read the signs of the times and make wise decisions for the future. (pause) Lord, hear us.
R. Lord, hear our prayer.
2. We pray for ourselves as we participate today in our Church Life Survey. May the Holy Spirit open our minds and hearts so that our responses will help assess our Church's core qualities and guide future planning for our community. (pause) Lord, hear us.
R. Lord, hear our prayer.
3. We pray that the work of the National Church Life Survey team and all involved in the project will bear much fruit through helping to build bridges between the Church and the wider community. (pause) Lord, hear us.
R. Lord, hear our prayer.
4. We pray for all those in our neighbourhood who are not part of this worshipping community. May the research work and resources provided by the National Church Life Survey assist us to become a parish where all will find a warm welcome. (pause) Lord, hear us.
R. Lord, hear our prayer.
5. We pray for all those who use their time and talents to help build the reign of God in our world. May God bless their efforts and bring them peace and hope. (pause) Lord, hear us.
R. Lord, hear our prayer.
A prayer regarding the National Church Life Survey
Lord of the Church,
We thank you for all the ways you guide, correct and bless your Church,
and we pray that you will use the National Church Life Survey
to keep us accountable to our high calling.
We thank you for the research skills and technical expertise of NCLS Research staff,
and for the contributions of all the people from many churches
who have shaped this year's survey.
We pray for each congregation
which is opening itself to learning by taking part in the survey.
We pray for each worshipper who will ponder, pray and complete a survey form.
We pray for all the clergy and lay leaders
who will provide information about their congregations.
We pray for this community [parish, congregation, group…],
as we complete the survey,
adding our piece to the picture of church life in Australia.
We pray for the NCLS Research staff
who will process, interpret and distribute the information that is collected.
Through the survey, teach us
to be honest about our own faith practices
and observant about our collective culture.
Open up for us fresh opportunities
to discuss and clarify our ministry models and leadership styles,
our mission priorities and membership changes.
Give us thankful hearts for the areas of our church life
where your grace is overflowing.
Give us courage to recognise and act on the areas of our church life
where change is needed.
Use the NCLS to equip and encourage every member of your Church
for our mission to embody and proclaim your love for the world,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A prayer about Identity
Among the thousands of names, Lord Jesus Christ, you know my name.
Out of the thousands of places, you know where I am.
Out of the thousands of congregations, and points of view and ways of doing things,
Lord Jesus Christ, you know and love
this congregation and these people.
Remind us that in your eyes we are not a statistic but a person and a congregation,
people known and beloved.
Our names are written on your hands.
A prayer about being part of a Christian Community
As we complete the National Church Life Survey, let us pray for those other congregations
who also are doing this across Australia.
We pray your blessing for those who are very like us; familiar, co-workers, members
of the same kind of church with shared history. Fill their lives with your grace.
Stir them to deep faith turning into grace-filled action.
And we pray your blessing for those fellow-Christians who are not like us.
We pray for those who worship you in other ways, on the other side of the tracks,
who speak other languages and sing other songs. Fill their lives with your grace.
Stir them to deep faith turning into grace-filled action.
Remind us that we are all part of your flock, that we are all listening for your voice
and that you gave your life for us all.
A prayer about the purpose of the National Church Life Survey
Lord Jesus Christ, as we fill in our Church Life Survey, painting a picture of this congregation and this community, please open our eyes to the community beyond these doors.
Open our eyes to see our local streets and the people who walk in them.
Open our eyes to our town and our city.
Open our eyes to our rural district and our region.
Help us to see the reality of these places and these people through your eyes.
Lord, please use the resources that NCLS will offer from this survey to shine a light on our part of the world. Help us to see the needs and opportunities more clearly.
Show us how to use these tools as we take up our part in bringing in the reign of Christ.
A prayer about taking part in the National Church Life Survey
Thank you for having mercy on us in the Lord Jesus. Thank you for displaying your justice in his cross. And thank you for demonstrating your rock-solid commitment to your promises is raising him from the dead.
We long to offer ourselves to you - to worship you with our bodies, serving you and your people with all that you generously entrust to us.
Please teach us to consider ourselves with sober judgement. Enable us to see ourselves clearly -- so we recognise your generous provision for us and how you are calling us to glorify you.
Stir us to respond honestly to the questions on the Church Life Survey. Give us and those who lead us the humility we need to listen well to the results and face the reality of where our congregation currently is under you. And move us to continue trusting you, putting our hope in the Lord Jesus -- who lives and reigns with you, and who promises to be with us as we undertake the work he entrusted to us.
A prayer for use with all ages including Children
Thank you for our church.
Today we will complete a survey, answering questions about our church. Help us to respond honestly to the questions.
Help our church leaders to use the information from the survey, to make sure our church is a place that welcomes all people and helps people to learn more about God.
Help all the people at our church to use their gifts and skills, to love and serve others, in our homes, in our church and in our local community.
In Jesus name,
We provide a selection of biblical reflections below for your use when preparing to complete a Church Life Survey. You might like to use one of these reflections during a worship service, as an introduction to a sermon or homily on that theme, or printed in the weekly bulletin ahead of the survey, for people to think over themselves.
These reflections may help provide a theological framing for the activity of completing the survey within a worship environment.
• An opportunity to think of yourselves with sober judgement (Romans 12: 1-8)
• Are you secure enough to open yourself up to honest feedback? (Mark 10: 35-45)
• A solemn charge and an offer too good to refuse (1 Peter 4: 1-11)
• Taking stock: the good, the bad and the ugly (Exodus 30: 11-16, Numbers 1, 2 and Samuel 24)
• Is your church an impossible-to-miss beacon to God's glory? (Matthew 5: 13-16)
An opportunity to think of yourselves with sober judgement (Romans 12: 1-8)
It's often said that humility is not about thinking less of yourself but thinking about yourself less. And there's probably some truth to that. But, according to the Apostle Paul, it's about thinking of yourself with sober judgement.
At the high point of the majestic arc traced by the letter to the Romans, Paul calls us to respond to God's mercy in Jesus by offering our bodies as 'living sacrifices' in spiritual worship. A key aspect of this is the task of thinking of yourselves with sober judgement (verse 3).
In fact, this is the first specific application of the general call to spiritual radicalism (verse 2) -- displayed not simply in non-conformity to the habits of feeling and acting characteristic of an assertion of independence from God, but also such thorough transformation and inner renewal that you now begin to recognise and delight in what pleases God.
For Paul, thinking of yourselves with sober judgement clearly involves a kind of spiritual stocktake. It means making an honest assessment of yourselves -- on the one hand, resisting our deeply ingrained inclination to rate ourselves more highly than we should; and, on the other, acknowledging the God-given diversity of your faith community. Only this will allow us to see how the different gifts God has given your community are designed to enable each of you to make a faith-full contribution to the good of all.
A Church Life Survey is a terrific opportunity to help you and your congregation think of yourselves with sober judgement. It's about exactly the kind of spiritual stocktake Paul speaks of.
Ultimately, it's about being better informed and equipped so you can work together to serve and please the Lord.
Are you secure enough to open yourself up to honest feedback? (Mark 10: 35-45)
When Jesus hammers his disciples about their hunger for power and privilege, he completely up-ends their thinking:
"You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all."
In Jesus' kingdom, leadership is radically redefined. It's not about power and privilege but service and even slavery!
And what makes this possible -- and sets the pattern for it -- is nothing short of the blood, sweat and tears of the Lord himself: "For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
This is easy enough to pay lip service to. But it's much harder to rigorously apply. The old ways keep coming creeping back in.
It's worth asking yourself the question, are you willing to let go of being the sole 'expert' and authority on your congregation? Are you secure enough as a servant-leader to open yourself up to honest feedback -- to let the people in your congregation speak freely, and even to allow others to analyse the data and give you their perspective on how your congregation's doing?
A Church Life Survey is one opportunity to take this risk, face the facts (brutal or otherwise), and put your hope in the God who is willing and able to transform you...
A solemn charge and an offer too good to refuse (1 Peter 4: 1-11)
The Apostle Peter lays a very solemn charge upon the church -- to be "good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (verse 10).
For Peter, this means learning to "serve one another with whatever gift each has received". This is a matter of showing the kind of love that isn't afraid to open up life and home to share with one another (verses 8-9). And it's hard to see how this wouldn't involve at least some self-awareness on the part of congregation members.
What is more, Peter prefaces all this with a reminder about what God has been doing among them, rehearsing the tremendous journey his readers have been on. By God's grace, they're no longer living their earthly lives for human desires, indulging themselves in ways indistinguishable from those around them (verses 1-4). This old way of life has been done away with and a new life 'in the Spirit' has been opened by the power of the good news about Jesus they've received (verses 5-6).
A Church Life Survey is one opportunity to gain some self-awareness and to pay attention to what has been God doing in your church community.
It's about taking an honest look your strengths as well as the areas you could potentially grow in -- all so you can better love and serve one another. Surely help with that is an offer too good to refuse!
Taking stock: the good, the bad and the ugly (Exodus 30: 11-16, Numbers 1, 2 and Samuel 24)
Sometimes, we can view surveys negatively because they are impersonal. But even from Israel's early history, counting the people was a good, God-ordained thing for their leaders to do.
When Moses receives instructions about the Tabernacle on Mt Sinai, God instructs him to take a census of the people. The Israelites even have to pay to be counted as a reminder of the ransom given for their lives (Exodus 30:16). In Numbers 1, we see this census actually being carried out to good purpose.
But we can count people badly. King David, incited by the Lord, commissioned a census of the people of Israel that ended very, very badly. David's attempt to take account of the nation - and its military might in particular -- somehow expressed his deep failure to trust God.
Perhaps the key lies in the context of this episode in the bigger story being told in 2 Samuel. There, God's always timely and abundant provision of able warriors to support King David and protect the kingdom of Israel has just been mentioned. But here David is wanting to bolster his own sense of control and self-sufficiency.
What ensues is tragic for David - and for the whole nation. In judgement, God presents David with an impossible choice: three years of famine, three months of military humiliation, or three days of ravaging disease. He opts for disease and people perish in their thousands.
In God's great kindness, the plague was halted. Amazingly, God himself made provision for David's sin to be dealt with and its consequences mitigated. Even more amazingly, God chooses the very place where his anger was turned aside for the temple to be built -- it becomes the place where he would meet with his people!
There is nothing intrinsically bad about taking stock of your people by counting them and listening to their opinions. Nevertheless, rash participants in a Church Life Survey be aware: don't fall into David's trap of thinking this gives you control and failing to trust God. Taking stock of God's good provision for you and your church family should be an expression of trust in the living God who supplies all our needs.
Is your church an impossible-to-miss beacon to God's glory? (Matthew 5: 13-16)
Jesus famously used two images to describe the public life and witness of his followers: salt and light.
Lots of ink has been spilt over the precise significance of each image. But one thing is clear -- Christians are supposed to be an unmistakable presence and influence for the good in their neighbourhoods, communities, and wider societies.
Like salt preserving and flavouring food in a pre-refrigeration world, like an elevated city in the oppressive darkness of a desert night or a lamp on a stand in the middle of a pre-electric household, our identity is to be an impossible-to-miss beacon to God's glory and for the good of all:
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."
All too often, though, Australian congregations are anything but impossible to miss -- pre-occupied with internal issues we can be virtually absent from our communities. Either that or we're known for anything but our God-glorifying good works -- living lives that tragically fail to bear witness to the Lord Jesus.
A Church Life Survey will show you where your church is healthy and true to its identity as well as revealing where you could have further to go in being a faithful presence within your neighbourhood, community, and wider social context -- to the greater glory of God.