This year’s National Church Life Survey is gearing up to take a closer look at the multicultural makeup of Australian churches, as well as giving more of a voice to young people and their views.
The survey, which began in 1991 supported by Sydney Diocese and Anglicare (then Anglican Home Mission) and pioneered by the late Bishop John Reid, is due for its sixth incarnation in October and November this year.
“The survey this year is particularly looking at the mix of cultures and ethnicities in our churches, as well as trying to get a better idea of how young people are being nurtured in faith, and hearing about that directly from them,” says the Director of the NCLS Dr Ruth Powell.
Some of the key trends the survey has detected in recent years have been the greater mix of non-English speaking backgrounds in local areas and in churches, as well as an increasing connectedness parishioners feel with the mission of their local church.
“We’ve gone through a phase where people have not been sure about the place of the church in society, wondering where people going, and now into a phase where churches, and the people in them, are thinking hard about their place and their mission in concrete ways,” says Dr Powell. “It’s not really possible anymore to be just the church on the corner, you have to engage intentionally and purposefully, and we can see that recalibration, people having a clear idea of their role as the church, much more so than a decade ago.”
Despite that, she also notes people have increasingly indicated they are not sure that their specific gifts and abilities are being adequately used in service of that mission. This year’s survey will look more closely at that and the relationship of that trend to the paradoxical trend of increasing commitment to mission.
“In this survey we want to ask people about their gifts and skills specifically, and then whether those gifts are being utilised as much as they would like,” says Dr Powell. We hope that kind of information will then go back to local churches, and give leaders a clearer sense of the gifts and needs in their parish.”
Dr Powell is asking for churches to advise NCLS as soon as possible about the number of surveys they will likely need and in what languages, and also to begin planning which weekend in October or November they will hold the survey in their church.
“It’s important also to have a plan about what they will do with the results,” she says. “They will come back by Easter next year, so there’s time to plan about evaluating that information and actioning it. Nothing will change from just doing the survey, it’s actually about what we do with the information in our churches that is important, and it’s just as important local churches have a plan as it is for the Diocese or national church to have theirs.”
Surveys can be ordered online at 2016ncls.org.au
Feature Photo: The youth of St John’s, North Ryde