Monday, April 28, 2008

Community Worship Survey Results

About a week-and-a-half ago the worship and programming leadership conducted a survey among a diverse sampling of people in our church regarding the Worship Services at Parkview. This survey included questions regarding every area of our worship service as well as information regarding our Family Ministry venue Family Connection. If you would like to see the general results of that survey, you can view them at this link.

Over all, the general results of the survey were affirming that we are doing a good job in many categories within our services. Perhaps more telling were the comments in the areas that need some refining. As always, when people have the opportunity to share anonymously they can at times be a bit uncharitable in their commentary. Despite this reality, we were able to see trends in everything from preaching to music to communication that will be very helpful as we develop strategic ministry plans for the upcoming school year. If you’re observant, you’ll likely notice some of those changes in the near future.

This survey was strategic in that it generated some good conversation among leaders within the church that will help guide us in many future decisions. In this regard, I am very optimistic that we’ve got an excellent opportunity to blaze some new trails in our upcoming ministry season.

To clarify one thing, I know that some may be inclined to critique the wisdom behind surveying a congregation regarding their preferences. Some may ask, if Jesus told us that if we followed him we would be persecuted, then wouldn’t we be most pleased with results that were critical of our practices? To this my answer is yes and no. If we are criticized for our commitment to worshiping in spirit and truth and doing all we can to share the gospel with the lost world around us, then by all means we should applaud critical feedback. On the other hand, if we are criticized for our inability to engage people in their cultural context, then we should view both criticism and affirmation as resources to help us grow and change. The last thing Parkview’s leadership wants to do is make everyone as “comfortable as possible”. In the same regard we do want to do all we can to participate with God in lighting a fire that ignites a movement of the gospel in people living missionally in Iowa City and around the world.


John Carlson said...

Interesting on the survey. I think perhaps you now need to survey the MOST important crowd in the world to Parkview: Those that are NOT attending services at Parkview or any other church. The ones in the mall on Sat. night/Sun morning. The ones at Sunday morning brunch. The ones in the coffee shops. The ones sitting at home reading the Sunday newspaper. The ones hung over in their apt. on Sunday morning. Find out what takes to engage them in relationship. Find out why they don't attend a church . . . find out what it would take to possibly get them there? :-)

Scott Sterner said...

I definitely agree with you John. We've got to understand the people we are trying to reach with the gospel. I think a survey of that crowd would be very enlightening.

Another thought in that regard... Wouldn't it be cool if we as Christians were so connected with our pre-Christian friends and neighbors that we would already be totally in tune with what it means to connect with them. The goal being that we are always building bridges by which we can share Christ and that we are resisting the tendency we (Christ-followers) have to fortress ourselves from the culture around us.

Anonymous said...

YES on your second comment totally. however I think the reality is that (at least in many cases) as we both know, most "church attenders" are so accustom to years in the Christian/church bubble - even myself I admit - that we don't truly "know" an un-christian culture and it's hard as an individual to truly "go there." How do you tell when you're stuck in that bubble? If we as Christians find ourselves in environments where we're the least bit "surprised/taken back/offended/repulsed" etc - where we find ourselves rather NOT being there than wanting to be - we know that we are NOT immersed in where our culture is really at and in tune with a broken fallen world - if we're shocked by it that is. Because it's far much more LIKE that all over than not. I'm not sure the church as a whole can go there "together" corporately without perhaps some radical feedback/information/stats coming at them in a form that will rock their world to the core about how the world sees "church and christian culture." I think even we would be surprised.

Ponder this idea: Go out and find a few willing random non christian/non churched participants - some light core non christians - some hard core and everything in between. Ask them to attend PV for a couple weeks (or other churches.) Ask them to listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV, visit a Christian bookstore, etc. and hang out with some Christian people. THEN do a very open honest interview in a service with them about their take and experiences. You guys could probably become famous as a church/blogsite for doing this. I'd love to see what would become of it! You could even write a book!

Anonymous said...

I find this survey quite interesting. However, I propose that the wrong questions are being asked and perhaps with the wrong motivation. I understand the mission statement of parkview to be about living missional. However, I feel like the transformation needs to happen from the inside out. The emphasis should be upon the working of the Holy Spirit within each individual. As this transformation takes place, and each individual is continually and more deeply filled with the love of God, this will naturally overflow into the community. Perhaps I have swung far to the other side of wondering if we should be incredibly investing in our attempts to be "culturally relevant." Does Parkview still attempt to be "seeker-sensitive"? In my opinion, these efforts to be seeker sensitive is a waste of energy. The leadership should be paving the ways of how to seek out deeper intimacy with the Lord, and bring healing. As the truth is taught, and as people lives are transformed...people will be drawn. Not by fancy stuff...but, by the work of God! We should trust his work in the lives of those in the community.
It seems like we bring people in to the church, so in turn they can bring more people to church. Somewhere along the way the entire concept of growing and being known and loved by God is completely lost. It becomes one huge ministry machine... where hearts are slowly shriveling up as people attempt to hide this reality from others.

Scott Sterner said...

I think Matthew 5:16 shows this idea you are referring to. Mainly that we (the church) are to be a city set on a hill, that others might look in and see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. I totally agree that a major component of reaching more for the gospel is by us living as a city within a city, a microcosm of the Kingdom of God, a covenant community that reflects God’s economy in how we love one another. How can we be this light if we aren’t experiencing the riches of God transforming our hearts in love for God and for one another?

Another excellent point you bring up is in regard to the motivation behind the survey. To be completely forthright, the survey was not motivated in effort to be “seeker sensitive”, though I do think that we may be more effective in communicating to all people, believing and unbelieving, as a result. Our motivation was to see if we are effectively speaking the language of the people within Parkview Church so that they are engaged in the worship of God. If the survey was at all successful, hopefully you will find that God’s people will ultimately be more effectively transformed by the power of the Spirit, though I acknowledge that the unction of the Spirit is not ultimately in the hands of any human effort.

Interestingly, during our anniversary celebration as a church, I learned of a mostly forgotten split that happened decades ago in Parkview’s history over the debate, should Parkview be about building disciples or about evangelizing the lost. It’s sad that such a thing would lead to a split when all you need to do is read the scriptures and see that both evangelism “go into all the nations” and discipleship “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” are essential components of God’s Kingdom purposes on earth.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your gracious response. Which split off was Parkview? Do you feel like Parkview is encompassing both concepts of making disciples and evangelizing? And, do you see these as completely distinct from each other?

Scott Sterner said...

It wouldn’t be a good idea for me to get into specifics on the church split, but I can say that I believe it was in the early 70’s. It was a forgotten era that we have very little record about. It was a time where a lot of people in churches felt evangelism and discipleship were two sides of a coin. I won’t bore you with my theological thoughts on why I believe that was the case, but I definitely believe that growing in faith and helping others grow in faith is something that should be happening continually within the church. In John 4 Jesus said the Father is seeking worshipers who will worship Him in Spirit and truth. I think in this passage he is teaching us about the God given desire to see people becoming worshipers (evangelism) who will worship in Spirit and truth (discipleship).

Regarding Parkview’s progress as a church, I’d have to start by saying that I believe we are very blessed to enjoy a community of faith like Parkview. Having many friends in ministry and churches all around the nation, I can say with full confidence that God has very uniquely and specially blessed Parkview with amazing people and gifted leadership. On the other hand, I believe we need to always be open to the reality that we have growth to do. There is a Latin term from the reformation called “semper reformanda”. The term means “always reforming”. This phrase captures an idea that the church must embrace. We need to be willing to examine ourselves and see how it is we can make progress by owning our weakness and striving to progress and grow.

There have been a lot of things in the last year and continuing into the next year that represent a strong commitment to this kind of growth and change. Though the results of all that is happening will take time to materialize, I am feeling a great sense of optimism that, by God’s grace, we are going to continue to see the Lord help us grow in our effectiveness to cooperate with his vision for Parkview Church.