13 Apr, 2017 Community surveys – an opportunity any church could take

Being new to Tauranga, Norman decided to go visit a few homes around the local church he and his wife joined, to get to know their community.
His approach was to use a community survey- and he models for us an approach that any church could take to get to know and engage with its neighbours!
Norman writes…
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On a Sunday afternoon I went for a walk to do a Community Survey, as a way of enquiring about the needs of individuals/families in the our new community in Bethlehem, Tauranga. I was trying to find out if there was anything that we offer that could meet their needs (There is a link to the survey used here).
I spent 3 hours going door-to-door visitation in my immediate neighbourhood, visiting around 20 homes – and not only enjoyed a number of conversations; I was invited to share the gospel with four of these people!
For your encouragement – here is a summary of my experiences.
– 70 % of people were home  (90%  were Kiwi)
– 70 % agreed to participate in the survey (I chose not  to do it with some because of their old age)
– Quite a few were new to the area/Tauranga (a number of ex-Aucklands!)
– Cery few were involved in a club, service group or church etc
– No one was really interested in what the church had to offer (`wrong’ demographic / 100 % Baby Boomers with no kids still at home)
– 90 % agreed that there was a God
– 70 % believed that there was life after death
– Most thought Jesus was just a man, and were unsure about Him rising from the dead
– None had read the Bible recently
– Most thought that the way to get to heaven was by good works (which I find to be a very common view across all people and religions)
– No one was keen to be part of a Bible Study group (a `bridge too far’ for most Kiwis!)
– However, 4 people (3 Kiwis and 1 Chinese lady) agreed for me to briefly show them what Christianity was about. I was able to share the gospel with them, which I did simply using the Bridge illustration. They all listened attentively and were positive towards it – even agreeing that it made sense! However, they declined  my offer to take things further at that time, which is typical of Kiwis.
      – We left on good terms, nd I may be able to revisit these folk on another occasion.
Observation: While Tauranga is predominantly Kiwi (as compared to Auckland, where I have moved from), many are still open to engaging in discussions about spiritual things.
– Visiting these homes wasn’t hard. People were receptive – and I came away with a greater knowledge of our community.  Any church could do this! 
A place to start for those who are nervous: If church leaders and members were scared of asking or discussing the spiritual questions with those living near their church, they could remove them from the survey for a while, so they can  ‘give it a go’ and gain some experience! This would help them overcome the fear of talking to people and to gain confidence in building rapport, while also identifying needs and looking for opportunities to encourage faith.
A short video that you may find helpful on this topic is here.
(And here, again, is a link to the survey I used – here).

Some other thoughts

  • Prayer:  We need to be prayer-walking our streets as a starting point to ask God to open people up to the gospel (Ezekiel 22:30, II Chronicles 16:9)
  • Training: With proper training, a number of people in each church could do this.
  • Leadership: Ideally the elders would take the lead in this – by going out, while empowering other members to help.

It’s about getting to know our communities – while being present to share the hope of Christ!

Norman Sutton.
DAVE MANN. Dave is an Author and gifted communicator with a passion for the Gospel. This passion started when he came to faith at age 11. After Secondary School he went straight to Bible College, followed by 7 years in outreach ministry in New Zealand, then nearly 9 as a pastor in Singapore, before returning to New Zealand at the end of 2011. Dave is a visionary and fearless about pioneering initiatives aimed at helping the Church in New Zealand in the area of its mission. Author of various books and Tracts including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last”, “The Elephant in the Room” and available free on this site: “The what and how of Youth and Young Adult ministry”.
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