It’s 2016. A new year. A fresh start. Goals and resolutions are being made. The year is being planned out. And the future is NOW!
Well, hold on for a minute.
I love the idea of continuing to make progress and running with the momentum currently present, but I also think there is a time and place for reflection and tweaking what we have been doing. One of those ways is a formal survey for those who consume your church content online.
Why Do You Need an Online Survey?
You may already be doing some kind of survey in your church. I know many churches that have comment cards that they truly make significant and effective changes based on the comments of their congregation. These are all good things, but the audience are people who you have captivated during worship. Their consumption of your church programs is going to be completely different from those who consume your online content.
It should be noted this article is for one specific set of churches: if you produce any kind of content online including videos on YouTube, posts on social media, blog articles on your church site, and podcasts that get downloaded directly to your listener’s phones. To you, you are putting in a TON of effort, even if it is simply the time it takes to post, reply, and monitor.
Why not get some direct feedback from your viewers and followers online to make the greatest impact for God?
Okay, so at this point I assume you have bought into using an online survey. But how do we create one that will be useful? So glad you asked. 🙂
Give me a second, let me pull out my statistician cap, I promise that if you hate math or statistics, this will be painful but fruitful. I have two sets of tips to help you get the most out of your online survey. If you want to see one working in action, check out our 2016 Reader Survey that you could easily adapt for your church.
3 Types of Information We Are Collecting
Within statistics, there are a lot of kinds of information that you can collect. For the purpose of discussing an online survey for your church, I am going to limit it to just three.
- Closed Questions
Closed questions require a specific answer. This includes any kind of demographics you want to collect from them, but only one answer is possible. “How frequently do you read ChurchMag in a week?” It’s not a question that requires a paragraph to answer, I could easily answer it in one word: daily, weekly, monthly. Have a purpose for these questions as they can be very valuable in understanding who is consuming your content online.
- Multiple Responses
These questions are similar to closed questions in that the viewer has a predetermined set of answers, but are not required to give a single, exclusive response. This can include an answer such as “What ministries do you find yourself using monthly?” with the ability answer several at a time. This gives a broader understanding of the person and how they interact with your church. We are starting to get a better grasp of our viewer and therefore a more defined audience. Be careful not to give too many options here as the reader that sees one question with 16 possible answers may simply give up.
- Open Questions
Open questions are the easiest questions to ask, but the hardest to write an answer for and sometimes the hardest to understand for the person creating the survey. At this point, you let go of all control over the data and therefore you should expect responses to follow in this trend. People may give you fluff answers that really are not helpful, overly critical responses that are simply mean, or a critique that completely throws you a curve ball and requires you to completely rethink how you do ministry. Yet these are the best questions to ask if you want to have growth. It should also be noted that all other questions need to be required, I’d encourage you to make these optional. Additionally, use these sparingly because filling out more than a small handful of open ended questions may frustrate the person taking the survey. Finally, it is easy to make an open question closed. Be careful. My philosophy is if I can deliberately answer the question in less than three words, it’s a bad open question.
Bonus Tip: As to not overwhelm survey users, slice up your survey into parts. My recommendation is to have only five data questions per page.
3 Uses of the Data We Are Receiving
Now that we have the type of questions we can ask, what is the purpose of asking the questions themselves. I’ve divided them up into three types of categories, though certainly you can have more. This is the foundation of a great survey, but you will need to tailor yours to your specific circumstances.
We want to know who is consuming our content online. Unlike a comment card you put in the back of your pews, we cannot assume that these views attend your church or are even from the same continent as you. They may even be the church down the street from you who is looking at how amazing you are doing ministry online and taking tips. Assume nothing, including age, language, location, profession, religion, and overall interest in your church activities and culture. They may be a casual consumer that is still unsure of “this whole Jesus thing.” Typically these are closed questions though can include the occasional multiple responses.
- Define Audience
To that last point in the demographics, understanding why they decide to consume your content is important. They may be a believer that is looking for support through their week, an atheist who is simply looking for ammo to yell at you, or a fellow church staff person from your denomination in a town next door that needs some spiritual nourishment themselves. Questions that ask “What do you consume from us?” help you understand if they are a blog reader, social media contact, podcast subscriber or all three. These questions are typically of the multiple responses with a rare open question mixed in.
At this point, we are full into open questions territory. Feedback can be brutal, honest, and outside-of-the-box. Take it for what it is, their comments of their experience of the church, not you as a person. Further, know that this may be a source of change for your ministries if people are comfortable to give feedback to well crafted questions. Even something as simple as “How could we better serve you and your family?” may open up suggestions like Meals on Wheels or Marriage Conferences that you had no idea could be a huge passion point for people to start to serve and grow as a community.
Bonus Tip: Make sure that your survey does not drag on. Anything more than 20 questions that you are asking people to do for free feels unreasonable.
There is a lot to digest here, but we’d love to hear your comments on what you could craft for your online survey to your digital audience?