Okay, it wasn’t scientific or carefully designed; but it was interesting and, at points, quite telling. I’m talking about the survey we took at River’s Edge as part of our 14th anniversary celebration.  If you weren’t here to celebrate with us, shame on you.  Survey says, “no birthday cake for you!”  But if you were here, my guess is that you would be interested in hearing the opinions of others.  But first let me quote an old Turkish proverb: “If you speak the truth, have a foot in the stirrup.”  I’m not sure how that applies here, but I am sure it does.  So with that in mind, here are seven observations about how we are doing as a church.

Insight number 1: 22% of us indicated that they don’t enjoy reading blogs.  That means that almost a quarter of those who took the survey won’t read this article about the survey because they don’t read blogs! That also means that one out of every five of us has totally ignored all the blogs that have been written in the last two months!  Survey says: “Well, that is kind of a bummer.”  Okay, the survey didn’t say that, but I did.  Maybe we should start a new campaign and be the “church that reads.”  In any case, if you are reading this, thank you!  But also, count your friends.  When you get to four, stop.  Realize that one of them (one of your friends!!!!) is not reading this blog.  Determine who it is and then begin to shun them until they repent.

Insight number 2: We need more opportunities to connect relationally with one another (apparently there is already a lot of shunning going on, and that is killing our community).  While many of us are relationally connected, there is a sizable group that is not so sure they have found a church home at RE.  Now, while I am thrilled that so many of us do feel connected, I am deeply concerned that some of us don’t feel that way.  Someone commented that they feel strongly connected to a small group of friends here at RE, but not to the whole church.  I fear that many people could voice that same sentiment.  They love and feel loved from a small pocket of friends; but outside of that group, they feel rather disconnected.  I can’t remember where I heard it, but someone once said something like “Love one another” and was actually applying this command to a church.  Perhaps, we need to find more ways to start putting that into practice.  But I’m preaching to the choir here. The number one response to question 4 (“I would love church more if. . . .”) was “If we had more opportunities to connect relationally” (a whopping 31% of us said this!).  That’s significant.  You want to know how significant?  It beat out our second highest response: “I would love our church more If we didn’t have to set up and clean up every week!” Any response that beats our frustration in having to set up and clean up every week is really significant.  And connecting relationally beat it by 7 percentage points! Wow.

Insight number 3: When it comes to the question about moving to a new location, we are pretty divided.  26% of us want to move, 56% want to stay and 16% aren’t sure what we should do.  Now there was not an opportunity to ask a follow-up question here about why people responded the way they did, but I bet there is some electronic way to send mail maybe from one computer to another or something.  So if you want to answer the question posed beautifully by The Clash: “Should I stay or should I go?”—and apply it to our church, feel free to send me an email.  I would really like to know what people are thinking about this.  And I promise, I won’t shun you for any response you send.

Insight number 4: 81% of us said that their Christian friends would enjoy attending RE.  That’s amazing.  And here are the top three reasons why we think our friends would like our church: (1) we feel we are a welcoming place, (2) we have many young families and (3) we have a great children’s program.  That is also pretty amazing.  Now we didn’t ask the obvious follow-up questions (i.e., “Would you be willing to invite your friends to come to RE?” or “What could we do to help your friends learn more about RE?” or “Do you really have friends?”) for fear that it might be construed as a bit pushy (and didn’t someone somewhere say, “Woe to the pushy, for they will be shunned”?).  And while I am glad to know that most us believe our friends would like our church, I am concerned about what we weren’t saying in our responses. Someone once said: “Often statistics are used as a drunken man uses lamp posts . . . for support rather than illumination.”  So it is here. We could feel really supported that our friends would like our church or we could begin to ask the more difficult questions (that might illuminate things more) about why these same friends like their existing church more? Just a thought.

Insight number 5: In response to the question, “What could we do that would make you love church even more?” 27% of you said add an adult Sunday school class.  24% of you said eliminate set up and clean up duties.  And 19% of you desire that we schedule more outreach opportunities in our towns and neighborhoods. Now I must admit, I was not expecting a huge groundswell for an adult Sunday school class.  That answer caught me totally by surprise.  Now earlier, I mentioned that the most common answer to this question was a desire to have more opportunities to connect relationally (it came in at 30%).  Perhaps, these two responses are connected.  Are we saying that the main reason we want an adult Sunday school class is because it would give us an opportunity to connect with one another more deeply?  In any case, if the desire for an adult class is genuine, let’s start talking about how we can make this happen. In other words, if enough people really want and would attend an adult class, we ought to try to figure out how to do it.

Insight number 6: The number one thing we would like to change about RE is, hands down, our lack of volunteers, especially for set up and clean up duties.  There were other things mentioned, as well (add more diversity, move to a new location so we can have more room for worship, create new opportunities for younger kids to do things outside of Sunday worship, etc.), but this was the most common response.  Now, I wish I could say I have a simple solution to this problem, but I don’t.  But please know that we hear you on this.  We are working hard to come up with a resolution that is both doable and realistic; but as of yet, everything we have proposed has failed to solve the problem without creating other problems.  A recent proposal does have some merit, however.  Someone suggested that we divide the load alphabetically (by first name) so that people whose first names start with “A” would be responsible for set up and clean up duties for a year, and then we would move on to the “B’s.”  But we feared “A” people were doing so much already.  So a brilliant counter-offer was made.  Let’s start with the back of the alphabet with the “Z’s!”  I can’t think of anyone who would be opposed to this idea (haha). Suffice it to say, we are working hard to figure out how we can lessen the load of our volunteers so that we do not overtax any of you, especially those who have served faithfully for so many years.

Insight number 7: This one answer made taking the whole survey worth the time and effort.  In your opinion, what is the best thing about RE?  Survey says: the people!  Over 45% responded that YOU are what makes RE so special, and we are ever so grateful that God has put us together to worship together, to serve together, to advance God’s kingdom together, to pray together and to celebrate God’s love and grace together. You are what makes RE a great church, and we are so thankful that we could be in this great adventure called “church” together!

Recently, I heard a great old Polish proverb.  It came with this introduction: when drama has you surrounded and pandemonium is threatening to pull you into its vortex and the chaos is swirling around your head, remember this six-word proverb and you will survive: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”  Sometimes as a leader, you get lost in the maze of things to do and in figuring out what strategic thing ought to be done next.  This survey has done wonders to help buttress my circus tents and corral some of my monkeys. And for that, I am extremely grateful for your participation.