As part of the strategic planning process, United Church of God has once again conducted a survey to gather feedback from members, ministry and attendees regarding the programs UCG provides. Conducted in September of 2022, over 3,500 people responded representing 26.7% of overall attendees, including 14.8% of responses from international areas. That so many would take time to give input demonstrates concern that is sincerely appreciated.
The survey was administered by a third party and all responses were reported in aggregate to ensure comments remain anonymous. The research was analyzed by a team with backgrounds in research and the results were presented to the Council of Elders and administration earlier this year. The entire survey had a margin of error of +/- 1.7 at a 99% confidence rate.1 The following is a summary of the data and comments received.
The majority of the survey respondents were adult baptized members and primarily from older membership with only 14.7% of the respondents being under the age of 40.
The survey has been conducted for over 15 years, with the last survey being conducted immediately prior to the pandemic. The post-pandemic conditions are apparent in both the results and the comments. In considering all the input there are several key themes that emerged in this year’s survey.
Prepare a People
Respondents would like to see continued and increased investment in helping them grow spiritually. Whether that be in-depth study resources or access to sermons online. While they appreciate the vast information available, respondents want more content geared toward long-term members. As they reflected on the pandemic, many commented on how online sermons were a vital connection to the Church.
Citizens of the Kingdom of God
Many are looking for balance in holding on to our conservative values while not advocating for specific political agendas. While we must be clear on God’s standards, we must also be careful to not come across as overly harsh. Instead, respondents encouraged compassion, remembering that those without the Holy Spirit may make poor lifestyle choices in the absence of God’s truth, and Christ’s example is still one of love toward their suffering. “We don’t have to look down on someone to help them.”
The environment at weekly Sabbath services is an area many would like to see even further enhanced. So many are grateful, post-pandemic, for the opportunity to meet but would like to see more fellowship about spiritual topics. “Our church culture is definitely lacking when it comes to spiritual/edifying fellowship. It’s so much ‘easier’ to talk about work or school than about the Bible. We could definitely stand to change that.”
Key Takeaways and Conclusion
Surveys highlight areas to explore and additional work to be done, and this input is actively used in Church decisions. For example, a program focused on Ministerial Speaking was deployed as a result of the last survey. Work to redesign the website and make it easier to search and navigate was also influenced by feedback from the prior survey.
This year the biggest take-aways focus on four key aspects:
1. The need to embrace a tone of “the good news” over negativity
In today’s dark world, people see bad news regularly. Shining a light on God’s great reward as well as a true path to endure what is coming should be the goal.
“I feel we need to focus more on the promises, the ‘good news’ of the gospel, than on the bad things of this current world. We need to give hope for a better future.”
“I understand we are to give a warning but we also are to be preaching the gospel which is the most positive of all messages.”
2. Service among brethren that involves more of the membership
There is a real desire for more members to reach out and check in on one another and make sure everyone feels included in fellowship and activities. While most respondents indicate they serve, there is a shift in the composition of who is involved. While many respondents indicated they are serving others on a regular basis, others expressed a desire to serve but are unable due to age, distance or being home-bound.
While some want to help, they are not asked. Others expressed concern as to how much they are already doing. We need to start passing the baton to the next generation so that they develop accountability and engagement within the congregation. The key is to keep asking, asking where one can help or asking others for their help. “I love being able to help when asked” is a sentiment several shared.
3. Engage the youth
While one of the most positive aspects of the results was an overall improvement in the Net Promoter Score (NPS2) by 26 points, the Church youth do not reflect this. Younger members scored 28.8 points lower on NPS and 19.7 points lower on “feeling they are an important part of the church” compared to the overall average. “We seem tied sometimes to traditions that do not appear open to younger people. We want an environment that is welcoming to all ages.”
4. Deep admiration for the service and work pastors and their wives do for the members
There is a need to perhaps adjust expectation on how much can be done with smaller overall membership and resources than in decades past.
“Our pastor is perhaps the most loving and dedicated man I’ve ever witnessed in the pastoral role. He and his wife TRULY love the brethren.”
As one person said, “I really believe that the United Church of God is doing a wonderful job . . . I am proud of the work we are doing with the help of our Great God.”
In turn, we are grateful for the help of all those who took the time to participate in the survey. Many of the insights and findings included actionable and helpful ideas, and we want to acknowledge everyone who shared their thoughts. Thank you.
The entire presentation can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8has_Y5ris