It is encouraging to know that 84% of CRCA congregational members would support the development of new initiatives in the ministry and mission of their local church. This is one of many findings in the recent NCLS (National Church Life Survey) survey conducted among CRCA churches. While not all churches participated in the NCLS survey, the results are still a good sampling of the vitality of CRCA churches. Over 1300 adult members participated, which is almost ¼ or 22% of the total adult membership in the CRCA. The 17 participating churches represented large as well as small churches, churches from every state, and new church plants in addition to long established congregations. In addition, the findings of the NCLS surveys also echo the survey results of the 25 churches that have done one or more NCD surveys. So what does the NCLS survey tell us about the CRCA? Well, here is a glimpse!
The vast majority of CRCA members are long term members (73%) with the majority of them born in Australia (58%). But we also have a large number of adult members who were born overseas (42%), with over ¼ or 26% of members who are new arrivals to their church in the past five years. What I found surprising is that at least ¼ or 24% of our adult members speak a language other than English at home. All of this tells me that while we have a stable church membership, there is an ever growing diversity in our churches.
What doesn’t surprise me is the high value people put on sermons, preaching, or teaching in their local churches. For the vast majority of our churches biblical preaching is their number one core Biblical value, and it is the CRCA’s commitment to the pure preaching of the Word of God that draws many, many people to find and maintain a church home in a CRCA congregation. Almost ½ or 49% of attenders spend time in prayer, Bible reading, and meditation every day or most days. This simply underscores the high value CRCA church members place on the Word of God.
About one-third or 32% of adult members value small groups as places where they can study the Word of God, support one another in prayer, and encourage each other in the Christian faith. But an almost equal number of people would like to see spiritual growth (39%) and a sense of community (34%) be given priority by their church in the next 12 months. These results echo the NCD results which show that two areas that require attention in our churches are ‘passionate spirituality’ and ‘loving relationships’. As churches who place a high value on Biblical preaching and small groups there is much opportunity and potential to raise the bar in the areas spiritual growth and Christian community. There is also much potential for spiritual growth with CRCA church attenders, with less than half or 43% saying that they have experienced much growth in faith in the previous 12 months. What can we do as local churches to raise the bar in the area of ‘spiritual growth’ or ‘passionate spirituality’? This is a question every pastor and church leader should be asking of themselves and their church.
I found it interesting that most attenders identified their gifts or skills as ‘hospitality: welcome, host, provide food’ (42%) and ‘communication: write, edit, speak’ (32%). I would love to explore this further with churches. For example, when it comes to hospitality do most church members simply think of greeting people at church, serving coffee afterwards, and doing the dishes? Or is there more? With such a large segment of our people identifying hospitality as their skill or gift, this is a huge opportunity for the gospel. Jesus used simply hospitality and meal time conversations to share some of the most profound truths of the gospel. When we open our homes to friends and strangers, put on a meal, and break bread together, we invite God’s blessing. Christian hospitality is key to the gospel, especially if we want to reach the many migrants and people from other faiths who are moving into our communities! Perhaps there is a whole lot more we can do in the CRCA to leverage these gifts and skills to reach the lost for Christ. It is also encouraging to discover that there is a large segment of our adult membership that would like to become more involved in their local church (23%).
I mention the priority of evangelism since outreach to the lost is really low on the radar of most of our people. While over half or 55% of our adult membership are involved in small groups within the church, only ¼ or 25% of people are involved in evangelism or outreach activities. In fact, the NCLS survey shows that over half or 53% are not involved in wider community groups. How can we as Christians ever reach the lost in our community is we are not engaged in our community? One of the reasons the CRCA is promoting ‘Organic Outreach’ to our churches is to encourage every member of the church to be sharing the good news naturally through everyday evangelism!
Finally, let me reiterate the encouraging finding through the NCLS survey that 84% of CRCA congregational members would support the development of new initiatives in the ministry and mission of their local church. As a CRCA denomination we are committed to be a church reforming to reach the lost for Christ. This is our vision, and our members are overwhelmingly ready to support the reforming that needs to take place. But less than half of our members or 43% are fully confident that their local church can achieve the vision, goals, or directions set! Here the CRCA denomination can assist. Through intentional ministry formation resources and coaching are made available to increase church health or vitality! The GROW and TRAIN workgroups are prepared to assist pastors, church leaders, and congregations to grow healthy churches, plant new churches, multiply disciples, and increase the number of well-trained leaders. If you have questions or desire more information, please fill out a contact form here.