A survey of Disciples is providing a snapshot of congregational and ministerial priorities as North America emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey reflects the evolution of worship after months of online or socially distanced worship, a transition in how music will be resourced and provided to congregants, and perhaps a refocusing on congregational life as Christians assess the changed landscape after the pandemic.
The online survey, taken in October, collected 246 responses from across the United States and Canada, representing a variety of urban, suburban, and rural congregations of all sizes. Fifty of the respondents were laity.
“We know the pandemic affected congregations in ways that were unpredictable and in large part uncontrollable, and only in the last few months are we beginning to figure out what changes were temporary and what changes are permanent,” said Sheila Spencer, interim president of Disciples Home Missions. “How we live our faith lives changed. We became much more self-reliant and tech-savvy, and the pastors and employees and volunteers who managed worship and Christian education are recognizing the changes needed to keep members engaged and worship vital in the years to come.”
The Disciples Home Missions Board of Directors initiated the survey in partnership with Chalice Press and Office of the General Minister and President Yearbook. Each organization will use the survey and other research to guide programming decisions in the coming years to better serve Disciples and their congregations.
Editorial note: An earlier version of this posting had an incorrect table of respondents. (12/9/2021)
Asked to forecast the main worship music resource(s) in five years, Chalice Hymnal remains Disciples’ go-to option for a majority of respondents despite the fact it is almost 30 years old. However, a majority indicated they foresee using online music licensing websites such as OneLicense and CCLI for worship. Less than 30 percent foresaw investing in a new denominational hymnal or contemporary worship book like Chalice Praise.
How congregants will use those music resources, however, reflects a growing acceptance of screens and projectors in sanctuaries while continuing to have musicians performing live in the worship experience.
Given the change in worship formats and delivery systems during the pandemic, congregations are seeking a broader range of resources. While still looking for worship and curricula, they are open to online options and guest speakers dialing in from other locations:
Looking deeper into adult Christian education programming, no clear favorite emerged from the different presentation styles, reflecting the shift in how we consume information.
AREAS OF INTEREST
The survey asked which topics congregations wanted to explore in the next few years. Unsurprisingly, faith exploration and congregational resources fared well, while more focused topics lagged behind.
More than half the respondents indicated a need for seasonal devotionals for Advent and Lent, small-group study resources, and denominational calendars.
Respondents represented a spectrum of congregational roles. Each was asked to indicate each of the roles they filled. The survey link was distributed in October 2021 via Disciples News Service, Disciples Together and other ministry newsletters as well as various social media postings. Responses were received from 36 states and one province.