Survey of Hillsdale UMC


Congregational Survey

March of 2018

This year’s congregational survey was filled out by less people than before, but we can still hear a clear message from it: people want variety in worship and there continues to be a pull in our congregation in two different directions - traditional and contemporary.

When looking at whether people are inspired by our worship service the vast majority said yes, at about 70%, but the rest said they are only “sometimes” inspired. No one said they were not inspired by our worship.

When we looked at the overall worship service people scored most areas high, although the bulletin, sound quality, video projection, the liturgy and song selection all need improvement. Over 70% of people surveyed said they want variety in worship (different songs on different instruments). While 28% said they want modern worship, 32% said they want no variety or very little variety (essentially hymns on the organ).[1] 

Of the different ministry opportunities available to our church, the majority (56%) said they were most interested in purchasing a van that could be used during the week by the Seniors in the Hillsdale House and on the weekend and for missions trips by the Church.  Another 44% were interested in launching a new contemporary worship service and willing to volunteer time and talent for it.  Also 32% were interested in making a connection with the George White Middle School across the street from the church. There seem to be many ripe opportunities for our church.

In terms of the overall health of our church people said the most important thing our church needs is for people to go, tell and invite others to our church. Next was for our church to be hospitable to our guests when they are here!  Next people said a focus on children and youth was important and after that for our congregation to continue to grow spiritually. 

There were a few additional comments. One person asked about doing a hymn sing, which I plan to bring back this summer.  A few others asked about my robe. I do not wear a robe outside of worship, and, at the choir’s request, no one wears a robe during the summer.  But the comment did help me make an adjustment to the timing of when I put on a robe, so thank you to our commenters!

With these survey results I hope to do a few things in the near future. One is launch a contemporary worship service. Not only does a third of our church want more contemporary worship, half of our broader community wants it as well. If we have a space for more contemporary worship that will also allow us to make our 10am service a little more traditional as well.  A second thing I plan to do is inquire with the Hillsdale House about jointly purchasing a van.  It seems like a mutually beneficial item, so I will inquire and keep the church council informed of my progress.  We also see that the congregation feels that we have a good thing going and that we need to invite more people!  We are making plans to reach 50,000 people by the end of the year, and you can play a big role in that. Many of the people that are currently in our church are there because someone invited them.  All it takes to get others here is one simple, little sentence, “Hey, do you want to go to church with me?”  Let’s see where that takes us as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

For those that left their name in the survey, I will ask them about the worship items that did not score favorably.  I also plan to look at the self-assessed spiritual disciplines of the church. Now that we’ve been asking about it for a few years, we can look at changes over the years and see if we are growing in that area.  I’ll review that information at a later date and bring it before the church council.

If you have any thoughts or other questions regarding the survey, don’t hesitate to ask. The point is to help us grow as a church, to offer opportunities to all people seeking to know God, advance God’s kingdom and do God’s will by following Jesus Christ.  When we worship, do missions and join small groups we are headed in the right direction as we become disciples of Christ and help others do the same. I hope you’ll join me in this quest. God bless!


In Christ,
Pastor Brian Neville


[1] On some questions people could select more than one answer so not all responses add up to 100%

2017 Congregational Survey

A Response to the Congregational Survey of 2017

First, thank you to everyone who filled out the congregational survey this year. We take this survey each year to strengthen the ministries of the church. Your input helps all of us do a better job so we can make disciples of Jesus Christ as we seek to know God, advance God’s kingdom and do God’s will. Thank you!

You’ll find below the PowerPoint presentation that was used in February for the initial presentation of this data. You may want to refer to that as you read this response from me.  People shared what inspired them in worship, how they felt about inviting others and what they would change in the worship service. Different parts inspire different people, which is good, but there seemed to be a hesitancy to invite others. People agreed that it was good to invite them, but some aspects of our worship make it harder for “outsiders” to bridge the gap – the music, the formal and repetitive nature of our service, and how it’s organized.  I’ve noticed some of these things, too, and one small step to help “outsiders” is to have every part of worship easily accessible. Using PowerPoint on the digital projector since January has met with very positive remarks and made worship more accessible to new people.  I haven’t heard a negative comment yet about this change!  There are some requests from people for worship to move in different directions – some want to add silence that would formalize the service, while others want to make things less formal – but generally people like the service as it is – a mix of music styles, in blended worship (which, by the way, is the most popular style of worship in the country).

As I looked at the scores for various areas of the church (building, grounds, volunteers, etc.) there were a few items that stuck out: the parking lot, the bathrooms, the nursery, handicap accessibility, navigating the building, the bulletin, sound for worship and videos during worship. Some of these areas have been addressed previously, but still score poorly on our survey. My guess in these areas as I talk with people is that: the parking lot is too small (especially on holidays), bathrooms have minor issues that make them unappealing, the nursery is getting a little outdated and is too far away from the sanctuary, few people know we have a handicap ramp, its far away and there are no signs toward it, the building design makes it difficult to navigate and the maps do little to help new people. Then, there’s the last three items, bulletin, sound for worship and videos during worship, which are the toughest to gauge. Some have told me they wish the bulletin only had information that takes us through worship. Others have suggested that new folks can’t follow the flow when congregational responses are in various places and not simply printed in the bulletin.  Still others have said there’s just too much information in the bulletin so people ignore it all together.  My hope is that the switch to digital projection for congregational responses (and songs) helps reduce the confusion and aids in a better worship experience, but if you have any specific thoughts on this, please let me know.

The sound for worship continues to be a point of frustration for me. Sometimes people can’t be heard because of settings on the soundboard, particularly when it comes to videos.  I’ve talked to a few folks in the church and I think we can address this problem more permanently with a digital sound board for 3 or 4 thousand dollars, but I wonder if the cost is worth it.  For now we are trying to manage it with staff and I hope you’ve felt it’s been better in the last few months. We’ll keep working on this problem until we have a better solution for audio and video.

The last couple of items involved team vital, which is the group working on strategic planning this year. Though there were many good suggestions there, the majority of people seemed to think that connecting to our community through town events and schools was the best avenue for our church. I very much agree! I want to see us doing more to connect in with events that are already happening, rather than trying to form our own events. We had an Easter egg hunt this year at our church, which was great, but we could have just as easily had 4 volunteers join in with the town’s egg hunt, donate 100 dollars and made a big statement about what kind of church we are.  I think this is the future of how to do ministry in our community.  We need to think less of the church as a fortress running our own events and more like a community organization paving the path to Jesus Christ (not a church building)!

As I presented this information to the congregation earlier in the year, I shared a few thoughts on where we could go as a congregation. I continue to believe that, generally, people are satisfied with our worship. We still struggle to connect with new/er people and I am looking to team vital to offer up some meaningful direction in regards to the direction we should take. Generally, though, I think more worship options and a thoughtful response in how to integrate new/er people is key.  Small groups and missions opportunities are the usual channels to accomplish integration, so I hope to share more on this point from team vital soon.

Another area of concern for folks is recruiting volunteers.  Several groups have shared in the last year their frustration with getting volunteers.  Part of it is due to cultural changes, but part of it is up to us to invite people directly into participation in the life of the church.  We can all play a role in this, sometimes in leading by example, at other times by asking another person if they would like to help.  Many know we would like to have more choir members, an easier time lining up ushers and counters. These jobs are filled by people who have taken a step of faith to direct time, energy and money towards the church. When we all take a piece of this work, we know we are moving in the direction of God’s kingdom. We build something better than any one of us could do on our own. Join me in this effort! Have an open heart for the next step in the journey of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world right here, every day at Hillsdale United Methodist Church. God bless!

In Christ,
Pastor Brian Neville