What people want and what they need may be the same thing or they may be different. Sorting out wants and needs is an important task for any church leader. Understanding what people really want from their church is an important starting place. We need to understand why motivated people show up every week. What do they want from their church experience? Knowing this helps you determine whether there is an “expectation gap” or not.
The following insights were gleaned from surveying 80,000 people in 376 churches who took the REVEAL spiritual life surveys between October 2008 and March 2009. The churches represented a broad range in size, style and theological persuasion (including Pentecostal churches).
The five big categories that drive church satisfaction and spiritual growth are:
1. Spiritual Guidance (54%). This includes the church helping people understanding the Bible, developing a personal relationship with Christ, encouraging personal responsibility for spiritual growth, leaders modeling growth and showing how, and challenging towards growth and next steps.
2. Belonging (31%). This includes the church helping people to feel like they belong,. Assisting in time of emotional need and providing places for connection with others.
3. Accountability and Impact (9%). This includes the church helping people develop relationships that encourage accountability, providing opportunities to grow spiritually through relationships, and empowering people to male a significant impact in the lives of others.
4. Ownership (6%). This includes the church setting clear expectations for what it means to be apart of the church and inspiring a sense of ownership and commitment that leads to active engagement in the life and mission of the church.
5. Serving. This includes the church providing a strong serving culture and opportunities to serve those in need.
Here are five conclusions from the research:
1. Spiritual guidance has by far the biggest impact on people’s satisfaction with the church. People come to church hoping to know and become more like Christ. This drives more than half of the combined impact of all five categories.
2. Belonging is also a powerful drive of satisfaction with the church. This accounts for approximately one-third of the circle of impact.
3. The influence of accountability/impact and ownership on church satisfaction is limited.
4. Serving did not emerge as an influential category. Serving others is not on the radar screen for most people when they think about what makes them satisfied with how the church helps them grow spiritually.
5. The drivers of church satisfaction are the same for everyone – no matter where they are on the spiritual continuum. Spiritual guidance and a sense of belonging are what everyone wants from church.
Wants are optional. Needs are essential. What do people need from church? Here are the three conclusions from the research:
1. Spiritual Guidance and Accountability/Impact are the church’s most significant drivers of spiritual growth.
2. Serving and ownership are important contributors to spiritual growth. Serving those in need naturally triggers spiritual growth. Ownership contributes to spiritual growth in the same way as people shift from observer to participant and then to full partner for advancing the work of the church.
3. Belonging is not a driver of spiritual growth. Belonging does get people in the game when it comes to church participation but isn’t necessarily needed for spiritual growth.
The impact of spiritual guidance on both church satisfaction and spiritual growth is compelling. It is clearly the most dominant force driving both satisfaction and growth. This tells us that if a church must choose to do only one thing incredibly well, spiritual guidance is the runaway first choice. Spiritual guidance is what people both want and need from the church.
Tools for Spiritual Guidance
Here are some suggested tools for providing spiritual guidance to the congregation:
1. Encourage people to develop personal practices that help them grow in their relationship with Christ – through daily prayer, solitude, and reflection on Scripture.
2. Challenge people to respond to biblical truth through weekend messages and other communication channels.
3. Provide a clear pathway to guide spiritual growth – through membership or orientation classes.
4. Inspire leaders at every level to model and reinforce spiritual growth – through testimonies about spiritual struggles and dependence on Scripture for daily counsel.
5. Help people gain greater understanding in how to read and interpret the Bible – through teaching and classes and whatever resources you can.
6. Help people take responsibility for their own spiritual growth.
The above material has been summarized from the book FOCUS: The Top Ten Things People Want and Need from You and Your Church by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson (Willow Creek Resources: Barrington, IL, 2009).
Tomorrow: What People Need from their Senior Pastor