Back in February, we undertook our annual congregation audit. There were 53 responses, which is around 20% of the adults who comprise our worshipping community. Thank you to those of you who completed the survey – we really appreciate the time you take to give feedback on our mission and ministry. Our intention was to carefully read and reflect upon all the responses in March – but then Coronavirus happened!

As a consequence, it’s only now in the past month that we’ve been able to read and process the information we learned from the surveys. I thought it would be helpful to give a tiny bit of feedback, so that you know that what you communicated was heard!

Who Are We?

We asked a set of questions designed to find out a little more about the make up and involvement of our congregations:

  • Our congregation remains ethnically and nationally diverse, with slightly more women than men in our church, and a good spread of ages.
  • 75% of those who responded have a personal income of under £30,000. (The average income in Hackney is £30,000.)
  • 75% of respondents walk to church in under 15 minutes – suggesting we’re a very local congregation. (80% live in N1, E2 & E8 postcodes.)
  • Only 50% of our congregation attend church services weekly; around 25% attend more than once a month; and the rest attend monthly or less frequently.
  • 60% of those who responded have attended St John’s for under 5 years, with 10% having attended for over 10 years.
  • Almost everyone who responded serves on a ministry team of some description, and 40% belonged to a Connect Group.
  • 60% of respondents give financially to the church’s mission.

What we learned from this was that those who responded are deeply committed to the life of the church, and most serve on a team or belong to a group. Although a large proportion give financially, there’s a significant number who, although they are committed to the church, don’t yet invest financially in the mission.

We know from our church database that the vast majority of people who attend the church are not in a Connect Group, and a sizeable chunk are not on any ministry teams – and therefore we think that those who simply attend on Sundays were less likely to complete a survey. We will think more about how we conduct the survey in the future to make sure we get a good representative picture.

 

How Are We Doing?

We asked some open questions to get feedback about what people appreciate about St John’s, and also what frustrates members that we should consider changing:

What’s Good?

  • A large number of people commented positively on the diversity, liveliness, warm sense of community, commitment to the neighbourhood, inspiring worship and commitment to kids / youth ministry in the church
  • Appreciation was expressed for the thoughtfulness of sermons, and how members have been encouraged, stretched and challenged in their faith journey.
  • The commitment to the church’s vision for the neighbourhood, along with its willingness to take risks and focus on developing young leaders was celebrated.

What’s Difficult?

There were lots of diverse feelings and thoughts expressed about aspects of St John’s that people didn’t like or find frustrating:

  • Lack of pastoral care
  • Challenge of being over-busy – too many programmes
  • Lack of variety in worship songs
  • Not liking ‘kids / action’ songs
  • Not having enough ‘kid / action’ songs
  • Too political / woke
  • Not doing enough to welcome LGBT community

What Could Be Changed?

  • Greater emphasis on discipleship and pastoral care structures
  • Replace pews with chairs
  • Greater commitment to bridge cultural barriers
  • Simplify everything

What we learned from this was that there is quite a lot of overlap in the things that people like and appreciate about St John’s, and a huge variety of conflicting things that people don’t like or find frustrating. This suggests that the variety of personal preferences underpins the things people find difficult, although by definition, not so difficult that they have made a respondent leave the church – the very fact they completed a survey and felt confident to express themselves is a positive sign of engagement.

However, there were some key areas of overlap in relation to things people found difficult and would like to see changed:

  1. More attention given to pastoral care and discipleship structures

  2. Less ‘activity’ in the services and the church more widely – a simplified mission programme.

 

Looking Ahead

Happily, when asked how they would describe St John’s the others, the responses were overwhelmingly positive:

  • "A brilliant example of a lively and engaged diverse urban church"
  • "A warm community that focuses on showing God's love in practice, not just in theory"
  • "Friendly, diverse, family orientated"
  • "A diverse welcoming community of Christians committed to the improvement of the lives of those in our parish"
  • "A proper local church. It’s diverse (which I’m really proud of), gritty and sometimes messy but it’s the frontline of the kingdom:"
  • "Worth it, trust me..."

Off the back of this survey, we’ll be conducting some further listening as part of our Organising for Growth project during June, and seeking to form action teams to consider how to respond to concerns and develop the life of our church family. It will inform the process of writing a new Mission Action Plan in 2021, and will help us think about staffing priorities in the coming months.

Thank you again to everyone who responded – and it’s so encouraging to have such a dedicated and committed church family seeking to make St John’s a beacon of hope for Hoxton.