Some faith communities who offer online services and programs have reported an increase in viewership and participation in online programming since “stay at home” orders were put in place. In times of crisis, people often naturally turn to faith communities for comfort, strength, and hope.
But along the convenience of watching a service online comes the threat that members are also “shopping around.” Maybe they’re virtually visiting their hometown church or temple. But they may also be taking some time to experience other communities in your area to see what’s the best fit for their, or their families’, needs.
While you shouldn’t panic, this presents an opportunity to reflect on how well you’re meeting your congregants’ needs and gather feedback from them using a temple or church survey.
What to Ask
Here are some ideas of questions that you might ask:
Reflecting on feedback, you will be able to identify gaps in programming more successfully, identify misperceptions that might need to be corrected, address difficulties that are creating barriers to participation, or program ideas that better speak to your congregation’s needs during this time.
This might include shifting fundraising events online, holding faith services via Zoom, or finding ways to offer formerly in-person programs via a virtual format. For example, you might get the feedback that people miss socializing with each other and offer something beyond services that is fun and interactive—like a family-friendly sing-a-long or all-ages bingo game on Facebook Live. You might discover that folks are seeking reflective time, such as a meditation group, or are looking for ways to continue social justice work while social distancing.
Keep in mind that the needs of different members will vary, so you might choose to talk to a sample of members across age groups. The needs of young families, for example, may be different than the needs of teens in a youth group, or seniors.
How to Ask – Temple or Church Survey
Here are a few simple ways to gather feedback on how people are feeling about your community’s mission and programming.
#1 Make a Few Phone Calls
A phone call or video chat can be an effective way to quickly reach out to select members to gather some feedback. When gathering feedback, consider reaching out to people across a few generations.
It’s also to stay in touch with congregants who are less tech savvy and perhaps feeling isolated at this time. For example, Interfaith Volunteers, a faith-based nonprofit located in Minnesota, has pulled in additional people to offer phone all check-ins for local seniors who may be feeling particularly lonely or scared during the COVID-19 pandemic.
#2 Email a Survey
Surveys can be a great way to collect both qualitative and quantitative data that assesses the needs of your community members.
SurveyMonkey is a free and easy-to-use online tool that lets you create, send, and analyze questions. Other popular tools include Google Forms, Survey Gizmo, and SoGoSurvey.
Of course, a survey is only as good as its response rates, so here are some tips for getting congregants complete your survey:
#3 Social Media Check-Ins
Another way to check in with congregants is to ask questions on social media. This enables followers to respond to your post and to each other, which can help you gain insight while also encouraging community engagement.
Ben Vorspan, the Creative/Communications Director for Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, wrote about his experience shifting everything from services to website copy to be 100% accessible via phone. From their Facebook page, he has helped the temple host Bat Mitzvahs on Facebook Live, conducted check-ins with daily “Sundown Shares,” and promoted community events like virtual bonfires and streamed music from temple musicians.
In Boulder City, CO, Christian Center Church and other faith organizations are using social media not only to provide programming to congregants, but also to check-in via social media to assess how church members are handling social distancing and if there are specific supports they may need.
The nonprofit Hi, How Are You Project is using the month of May to improve awareness of mental health and encourage interaction by encouraging members to take a pledge to ask those in their community “Hi, how are you?” via social media as a way of checking-in and acknowledging the importance of mental wellbeing.
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If you’re unsure how to adjust your messaging on your social media channels or feel like you could use a little assistance strategizing how best to use your social platforms (or just get some support keeping things running smoothly), feel free to reach out to us for help.
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