Last week I published the first of what will be a series of posts analysing Newlife’s results from the National Church Life Survey (NCLS). The NCLS survey, conducted in March 2016, was filled out by 833 Newlife adults, and offers a wealth of information about how our church has changed over the least ten years when we compare 2016 with 2006 NCLS results, where we sit in our denomination and the opportunities and challenges we have in mission. My first reflection focussed on the demographic profile of our congregation (The People of Newlife). You can read that post here: https://church.nu/the-people-of-newlife/
In this post I will be focussing on our shared values and priorities.
What we value
Survey respondents were asked to choose three things they valued about Newlife the most. The top five choices, with 2006 comparisons in brackets, were:
Sermons and preaching 51% (39%)
Contemporary worship 34% (30%)
Serving the wider community 34% (27%)
Ministry to children and youth 31% (27%)
Small groups 21% (27%)
It is worth noting that preaching ministry is increasingly, and by far the highest valued ministry by our community. In a large and growing church, small groups are less valued than they were ten years ago. People are attracted to our Sunday ‘platform ministry’ but value less discipleship opportunities available to them in smaller, more intimate community.
Worth noting also is that 12% of our respondents chose social and cultural diversity as one of their top three choices, up from 5% in 2006, perhaps reflecting our growing multicultural diversity. Only 9% chose traditional worship, down from 14% in 2006.
Priorities for the coming year
From a list of 14 choices (including ‘don’t know’), respondents were asked to choose the priorities for our church for the coming year. The top five responses, with 2006 responses in brackets, were:
Spiritual growth 41% (no 2006 measure)
Worship services 30% (31%)
Build community 30% (33%)
Encourage use of gifts 30% (41%)
Ensure new people are included 25% (31%)
It could be argued that four of five of our top priorities are more inwardly focussed. By comparison, planting a church/new mission venture is a priority for 10% (3%), and evangelism a priority for 21% (18%). Church planting may well be a stated goal of our church (we have planted two and will launch our third in 2019), but it’s only ‘owned’ by a small, albeit increasing, minority of Newlifers.
Fascinatingly (and I see this mostly as a positive) only 3% of people think growing into a larger church is a priority, compared with 13% in 2006.
Willingness to be involved in taking priorities forward
78% of respondents said they would lead, participate, or do both, in assisting the church fulfil its priorities. This compares with 76% in 2006.
21% of respondents were unwilling and uninterested in such missional engagement, slightly less than for respondents across the Uniting Church in Queensland (25%).