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Calling all people interested in people!

One of the things which I am keen to support within the Congregational Federation (CF) is an involvement in living research. In any organisation, it is easy to speak in general terms about what our attitudes and values are, but this is often based on the guesses or limited experience of a few people. But it is important to get actual evidence as we try to understand how we should be developing and growing.

Many denominations are involved in active research about themselves, using surveys, questionnaires and interviews, etc. The Government is constantly engaged in such research, as are charities, retailers, political interest groups, media professionals, and so on. As part of our learning and development, I think we could consider developing a research culture as well. As we look to create a strategy for future growth and community outreach for our churches, let’s do some actual listening to each other about the things that matter to us, the things that concern us, and the ideas that will move us all forward.

I have been offering this opportunity to those in ministry, as a way to energise their ministry and engage them in practical learning, and a few have come back to me with a measure of interest in this. But I want to offer this to everyone. If you are reading this article and you have an interest in getting involved with finding out what fellow Congregationalists think and value, get in touch with me.

Among our CF tutors we have expertise in research like this. Some of you may also have experience in this kind of research because of jobs you have had, and you could have skills and experience that would be valuable to us. But if not, we can help you with basic training in how to do this effectively and appropriately. We can work with you in identifying particular questions to which you would like to know the answers.

SurveyHere are a few recent examples of what others have found out. The Charity Awareness Monitor, from nfpSynergy, includes a regular question on trust in public bodies and institutions. Respondents are asked to rate the trustworthiness of twenty-four organisations.

According to the February 2018 results, for which 1,000 adults were interviewed online, the Church (whatever denomination) is only the seventeenth most trusted public body in Britain. In the latest annual Ipsos MORI Veracity Index, based on face-to-face interviews with 1,001 Britons in October 2018, clergy and priests were ranked only eleventh out of twenty-four professions and groups in terms of their perceived truthfulness. Aren’t these results shocking and dishonouring to God?

In March 2018, ComResunder took an online survey of attitudes to Christians and Christianity among 4,087 adult Britons. Here is one of the results. When asked whether they would be ‘more likely to trust a person with no religious beliefs than a Christian’, as many as 12% said yes. Doesn’t that challenge us? Do you think your local community would give a similar response to the question?

Of course we know that statistics in themselves only tell part of any story; we need to know more. The context and the analysis are what count. However, the results of personal research do provide some evidence about attitudes and behaviours, and the CF could also benefit from gaining evidence about what our churches and members think about big issues.There are many issues that we could feature in our research.

For example:

  • Do we have a common mind about evangelism in our local communities?
  • Do we have a common voice for the homeless and the socially excluded?
  • Is there an appetite for sharing resources among our churches for joint community activities (including buildings and people)?
  • Is there any interest in supporting and going to spiritual retreats or prayer days?

There are so many issues where it would be useful to get some kind of evidence about what we believe, what we value and what priorities we have. If you would like to become involved, get in touch with Maddy or myself at the Nottingham offices. This could play a useful part in our thinking about the future, and it could be exciting and satisfying for you.

Walter Riggans
Learning & Development Manager