When considering how to know a city in order to help reach it, two critical issues are knowledge and love. And, we must be intentional in keeping them together. It is possible to know a city and not love it, but you cannot truly love a city without knowing it. Simply put, you cannot love a city if you do not know a city. That takes some work — getting out, looking around and listening in. Let me describe how a LifeWay Research City Study works and how it can benefit churches.
We do both qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research focuses on discovering the range of attitudes, behaviors, or perceptions. Quantitative research focuses on determining how frequently or in what quantity those needs, behaviors, or perceptions exist.
We have found this works best when a city has a coalition of pastors and churches working together, desiring to learn, and looking to develop a strategic plan. The coalition can:
- Pray together for your city.
- Utilize the data and to share it with all the churches in the city.
- Mobilize churches to share Jesus and meet needs together since it is a task larger than just a few churches’ work.
- Fund the research project.
City research provides a benchmark survey of the churches and residents. Too often, city strategies are filled with enthusiasm about what they think they are doing, but not much impact. A benchmark study enables us to see if we really are making progress as we reach and serve our community.
We focus on two areas: the church census and the resident survey. The church census provides a reading on church vitality by asking questions about who the church is reaching (number of new commitments to Christ and the age, education, ethnicity and income of attendees), involvement of attendees in ministry and how the church is seeking to reach people in their community.
In studying the residents, we capture information from at least 1,000 residents to provide a statistically validated report. The residents are asked about their hobbies, attitudes about local Christian churches, political affiliation, religion, church attendance, beliefs and specifically their attitude about Christ. Residents also identify their age, ethnicity, income and education. This survey provides a reading on the receptivity of people to the gospel and their affinity groups.
The affinity groups provide tangible entry points to be used to reach residents. Since around 100 affinities are identified, the churches are able to discover many avenues to motivate and mobilize believers to reach the lost right around them.
The end result is to get churches thinking about their context more discerningly. We have found that the research PROCESS actually helps motivate churches for mission PROGRESS — and to do it together.
Studies like this enable them to learn who their co-laborers in the harvest are and what that harvest field looks like. The end result — all parts of the body of Christ in a city are better informed and better connected for collaborative mission and ministry.