Survey Report New Hope Church: Attitudes and Opinions of the People in the Pews

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1 Survey Report New Hope Church: Attitudes and Opinions of the People in the Pews By Monte Sahlin May 2007

2 Introduction A survey of attenders at New Hope Church was conducted early in 2007 at the request of the pastoral staff. The purpose of the study is to evaluate various ministries and activities of the church as well as gather information useful for strategic planning. The standard Survey of the People in the Pews, developed by the Center for Creative Ministry, was used with some modifications relevant to the unique activities and character of this congregation. This instrument includes many items from national studies of congregational life in order to provide tested questions and comparative data. It was distributed to worship attenders on two Sabbaths, January 20 and 27. A total of 404 usable questionnaires were returned. Headcounts of attendance were recorded for both Sabbaths, and the average attendance over those Sabbaths was 525, so the response rate was 77 percent, which is very good and indicates the reliability of the information contained in this report. This report is based on a computer analysis of the 404 responses. All sample surveys are subject to sampling error. At the 95 th percentile of reliability, an allowance of four percentage points should be made in interpreting the results of this survey. (See the appendix for more precise information on sampling error.) Comparisons are made throughout this report with the U.S. Congregational Life Study (USCL) conducted in 2000 by a consortium of more than 40 denominations and faiths, including the Seventhday Adventist Church in North America. Monte Sahlin, chairman of the board for the Center for Creative Ministry and director of research for the Ohio Conference, developed the questionnaire and wrote the analysis for this study. Paul Richardson, executive director of the Center for Creative Ministry, managed the study with the assistance of Carmen Rusu and Norma Sahlin. The graphics and printed report were prepared by staff at the Center for Creative Ministry. Demographic Profile of the Congregation New Hope Church has many more people attending from the Millennial generation (13 through 30 years of age in 2007) than are present in the general population in the Washington metropolitan area, while it attracts significantly fewer among those over 42 years of age. (See Figure 1.) About 28 percent of the respondents are in the Millennial generation as compared to only 4% of the general population. Another 32 percent are in Generation X 31 through 42 years of age in 2007 as compared to 19 percent of the general population. The USCL shows a pattern of larger portions of older people attending worship across America, but New Hope Church is very much outside the norm in attracting a significantly greater portion of younger people. 2

3 People from households with annual incomes under $50,000 are less likely to attend New Hope Church, while those from households with higher incomes are more likely to do so. (See Figure 2.) The largest number in the congregation (44 percent) come from homes where the annual income is $75,000 per year or higher. Only seven percent of attenders come from homes with incomes of less than $25,000 a year. Despite the fact that it is located in a highly educated metropolitan area, the people who attend New Hope Church are even more educated. (See Figure 3.) Fully 61 percent of attenders have a college degree. New Hope Church is significantly better educated than the typical congregation in America according to the USCL. The majority of New Hope Church is made up of married people (56 percent), although it has a larger portion of singles than in the general population of the Washington metro area. (See Figure 4.) A third have never been married, eight percent are divorced and still single, two percent widowed and another two percent currently separated from their spouse. The number of widows is significantly less than the general population. New Hope Church has somewhat fewer married people and more single adults than do most congregations across the U.S. The USCL found that 66 percent of church attenders are married as compared to 52 percent of Americans. New Hope Church is quite diverse in its ethnic profile. (See Figure 5.) Two in five attenders are non-hispanic Whites. A quarter are Black, including 17 percent nativeborn African Americans and seven percent immigrants from the Caribbean; 12 percent are Asian; and 11 percent are Hispanic or Latinos. Five percent indicate they are multiethnic and seven percent identify themselves with an ethnic background other than those listed. This is significantly different than the general population of the Washington metropolitan area. (See Figure 6.) New Hope Church has about two-thirds of the proportion of Whites in the general population, three times as many Asians, nearly twice as many Hispanics and about ten times as many in the other ethnic category. New Hope Church has a slightly greater share of Blacks than the general population. In its ethnic diversity New Hope Church is unlike most religious congregations across America, according to the findings of Faith Communities Today (FACT), the largest study of congregations ever conducted in American history. Diversity is one of distinguishing characteristics of New Hope Church which will be observed immediately by any newcomer unfamiliar with the congregation. A third of those attending New Hope Church are immigrants. (See Figure 7.) Asked about their citizenship at birth, 62 percent report that they are native-born U.S. citizens. A total of 33 percent were born as a citizen of some other nation. Five percent of respondents did not answer this question and it is not clear why they refrained from this particular item, although it may indicate the sensitivity attached to this topic by some members of the congregation. 3

4 New Hope Church has twice as many immigrants as the general population in the Washington metropolitan area. (See Figure 8.) Adventist congregations in major metropolitan areas over the last two decades have experienced both a significant influx of immigrants and a slowing of growth among native-born members, especially among the White ethnic majority group. Evangelism is very effective in certain immigrant communities, but it is less and less effective among native-born Americans, both Blacks and Whites. These realities create a situation in which New Hope Church could slowly become a congregation entirely made up of ethnic minorities. If it is the intention of the leaders of the congregation to maintain the present diversity and continue a significant outreach to native-born and White residents, it will require careful planning and persistent effort. This issue constitutes a major strategic challenge for the mission of the Adventist Church in this area and across North America. Three in five of the people who attend New Hope Church are women. (See Figure 9.) Just 41 percent are men. Although this is significantly different than the general population in the Washington metropolitan area, which is about half each gender, it is typical of Protestant churches. The USCL found that 61 percent of those who attend worship among all faiths in America are women and only 39 percent are men. In this regard, New Hope is a typical American Protestant congregation. Attendance Patterns The majority of participants at New Hope Church attend almost every Sabbath. (See Figure 10.) A total of 55 percent attended three or four of the previous four Sabbaths. Another 22 percent attended only two of the previous four Sabbaths and yet another 22 percent only one of the previous four Sabbaths. Those with a volunteer ministry assignment and those who are members of New Hope Church are more likely to attend regularly. The same is true for those who identified themselves as Hispanic or Black. There is a strong correlation between age and attendance. The older an individual is, the more often they are likely to attend New Hope Church, while the younger an individual is, the less often they are likely to attend. This is a typical pattern in Adventist and other Protestant churches in America. It may suggest the need for alternative worship experiences for teens and young adults at New Hope Church, or at least stronger ministries with these young people outside of the Sabbath worship services. Membership Dynamics Only 44 percent of the people who attend New Hope Church are members here. (See Figure 11.) Those over 42 years of age are more likely to be New Hope members, as are those who identify themselves as of Black ethnic background. The same is true for those from households with annual incomes of $50,000 to $99,999, those with a 4

5 graduate degree, those who have a volunteer responsibility at New Hope Church and those who attend regularly. Two in five of the people at New Hope Church are members of some other Adventist church, either in the Washington area or elsewhere. Those from the Millennial Generation (13 to 30 years of age in 2007) are more likely to give this response, as are those with no volunteer responsibility at New Hope Church and those who attend less often. One in eight of the attenders at New Hope Church (12 percent) say that they are not members of any church. Respondents from low-income households are more likely to give this response, as those who identify their ethnic background as Asian or Hispanic. Some four percent of those who attend indicate that they are members in a denomination other than the Adventist Church. No particular demographic segment is more or less likely to be included among this small number. New Hope has exceptional attendance from non-members. The USCL study found that the norm for Christian churches in America is that 10 percent of attenders are not members of the congregation where they attend. Just the unchurched portion of the sample alone is larger than this. But the biggest share of the non-members attending are young people who are members of another Adventist church somewhere. A total of 59 percent of those who report that their membership is in some other Adventist church are under 42 years of age. How many of these do not intend to settle in the Washington area? How many need to be encouraged to transfer their membership and make a full commitment to New Hope Church? What factors would motivate that decision? These are important questions to be addressed by the leaders of the congregation. Half of those who report that they have no church membership anywhere also say that they would like to join New Hope Church. (See Figure 12.) This segment probably includes more than 30 people each Sabbath. This indicates a very real opportunity for evangelism and some strategy should be in place to appeal to these people to join a membership class or some similar group. Impact on Participants A number of questions were asked to try to measure the impact of the ministries of New Hope Church on the people who participate. The first such item simply asked, To what extent does worship at New Hope Church help you with everyday living? (See Figure 13.) The majority (52 percent) say, To a great extent. Those who attend every Sabbath and have a volunteer role at New Hope are more likely to give this response, as are those over 30 years of age, those who are immigrants and those who identify themselves as Black, Hispanic or other in ethnic background. 5

6 A third of the attenders (34 percent) say that worship at New Hope Church helps them only to some extent with everyday life. Respondents from lower-middle income households are more likely to give this response, as are those with a graduate degree and those who are native-born Americans. Just 14 percent of worship attenders report that they are helped only to a small extent or not at all by their participation in New Hope Church. Those with only a secondary diploma are more likely to give this response, as are those from low-income households and those who attend less often. Spiritual Growth in the Last Year The majority of attenders at New Hope Church (55 percent) report much growth in their faith over the last year. (See Figure 14.) Of these respondents, the largest segment is made up of the 26 percent of the whole sample who say this was mainly through New Hope Church. Another 10 percent say it was mainly through my own private activities, and nine percent say it was mainly through other groups or congregations. Those who attend more often and have a volunteer responsibility in New Hope Church are more likely to report much growth in their faith during the last year and attribute their growth to New Hope Church. The same is true for those who are members of New Hope Church and over 60 years of age, as well as those indicate their ethnic background is other or Black. Respondents from the poorest households are more likely to report much growth mainly through other groups or congregations, while those not even a secondary diploma and from low-income households are more likely to say they have had much growth, mainly through my own private activities. Nearly half of the respondents (46 percent) indicate only some growth in their faith over the last year, while just eight percent say they had no real growth. Worshipers with a graduate degree are more likely to say some growth, as are those who are members of another Adventist church somewhere and those who have no volunteer ministry assignment at New Hope Church. Those with no church membership anywhere are more likely to say no real growth or only some growth. People attending New Hope Church are more likely to report just some spiritual growth in the last year than are attenders at Adventist churches across the U.S. in the USCL study. They are also somewhat less likely to attribute their spiritual growth to New Hope Church, while they are more likely to attribute their growth to other groups or congregations that they also attend. This is further evidence that New Hope Church has many attenders which are difficult to connect with and engage in a significant ministry. A contemporary trend documented in many research studies is an emphasis on private spirituality over organized religious activities. This trend appears to be less developed among attenders at New Hope Church than the typical Adventist or other Protestant church in America. These data indicate that New Hope Church is effective at 6

7 bringing people into a strong sense of community and a shared spiritual experience. The risk for New Hope Church is catering to a large group that attends less often and does not transfer their membership from another Adventist church. These may be a manifestation of another well-documented contemporary trend consumer religion. Volunteer Ministry Involvement Only a third of the people in the pews (35 percent) currently have a ministry assignment at New Hope Church. (See Figure 15.) Two-thirds do not. Those who attend every Sabbath are more likely to have a volunteer role, as are those who are members of New Hope Church, those over 30 years of age, those from middle-income households and those with a graduate degree. Those who are not members of New Hope Church are significantly less likely to have a volunteer assignment, as are those who attend less often, those from lower-middle and low-income households, those under 30 years of age, and those who report their ethnic background as Hispanic or Asian. Among the third of respondents who do have a volunteer ministry role at New Hope Church, the largest number have contributed less than ten hours in the last month or no more than two hours a week. (See Figure 16.) More than a quarter of those who have a volunteer ministry role (27 percent) actually worked ten to 20 hours in the last month, while one in eight put in more than 20 hours or at least five hours per week. These people make up the core working staff of New Hope Church. Respondents who attend every Sabbath are more likely to be in this group than are those who attend less often. The majority of the people in the pews at New Hope Church (54 percent) indicate they have been asked personally during the last year to volunteer time in some ministry sponsored by the church. (See Figure 17.) Those who have a volunteer assignment are more likely to say they have been asked, as are those who attend every Sabbath and those who are members of New Hope Church. The same is true for those with a graduate degree and those from a middle-income household. Perhaps it is more important to identify who is not being asked to volunteer. (See Figure 18.) Those who are not members of New Hope Church and those from lowincome households are more likely to have been missed. The same is true for those who attend only once a month and those who have not completed at least a secondary diploma. Evaluation of Sermons Three out of four worship attenders say that the sermons at New Hope Church do very well at encouraging spiritual growth. (See Figure 18.) Just one percent of the respondents said they find nothing at all helpful on this item. Baby Boomers and 7

8 respondents under 30 years of age are more likely to rate this positively, as are immigrants and those with only a secondary education. The negative responses are so few that no demographic analysis is possible. Almost three out of four worship attenders (73 percent) indicate that the sermons at New Hope Church do very well in terms of relevance to everyday life. Only two percent of respondents said not at all. Baby Boomers, White respondents and immigrants are more likely to give a positive evaluation. Again, the negative response is too small to yield a demographic analysis. Three in five worship attenders report that the sermons at New Hope Church do very well at stimulating thought. Just four percent said not at all on this measure. Respondents over 42 years of age are more likely to be positive on this item, as are Hispanics and those from households with incomes over $100,000 a year. At four percent the negative response is still too small for a demographic analysis. A solid majority of worship attenders (58 percent) believe that the sermons at New Hope Church do very well in terms of Bible content, although three percent claim there is no Bible content at all. Respondents over 42 years of age are more likely to rate this aspect positively, as are immigrants. The negative response is too small to provide a demographic analysis. Less than a majority of worship attenders think the sermons at New Hope Church do very well at encouraging witnessing or addressing social problems. Nearly half (48 percent) give high marks to how sermons provide support for witnessing, while 44 percent are positive about how sermons address social problems. The negative responses seven percent say the sermons provide no encouragement for witnessing and eight percent say no sermons address social problems are equally spread across all demographic segments. These two items constitute the weak spot in the preaching at New Hope Church, but the weakness is not nearly as pronounced as in the typical Adventist church in the U.S. as well as many Protestant churches. This fact is underscored by the fact that attenders who are members of another Adventist church are more likely to rate both of these aspects positively. The same is true for those respondents over 60 years of age and those who identify themselves from an Asian ethnic background. Music Preferences Attenders were asked which types of music they prefer in worship. Eight different general types of music were listed along with don t know and respondents were asked to indicate one or two choices. Half the people who attend New Hope Church (51 percent) prefer traditional hymns during worship along with other types of music. (See Figure 20.) Respondents 8

9 over 42 years of age are about equally likely to express this preference, as are Hispanics, those with graduate degrees and immigrants. Almost as many (45 percent) prefer praise music or choruses in worship. Those over 60 years of age are more likely to prefer this kind of music, as are White respondents. Another 44 percent expressed a preference for contemporary Christian music. Respondents under 30 years of age are more likely to want this type of music, as are those who attend every Sabbath, those who have a volunteer responsibility at New Hope Church and those who are members. Asian and Hispanic respondents are also more likely to prefer contemporary Christian music, as are those with a graduate degree. One in four worshipers (26 percent) prefer gospel music. Black respondents are more likely to express this preference, as are those from Asian and other ethnic backgrounds. The same is true for those who have a volunteer responsibility at New Hope Church. One in six of the people in the pews (15 percent) selected music or songs from a variety of cultures as their preference. Respondents from a Black or other ethnic background are more likely to ask for this type of music, as are those from households with annual incomes below $50,000, those with little education and those who do not have a church membership anywhere. This may represent a somewhat counter-cultural segment of the congregation; a segment that the pastoral staff and lay leadership may not even be aware of. This may be as many as 75 to 80 people each Sabbath. Eight percent of the respondents would like to have Jesus Rock as part of the music at New Hope Church. The only reliable demographic marker for this group is that those who are not members of any church are more likely to express this view. All of the other data is contradictory and the statistical cells are at times too small to be stable. Only five percent of the worshipers at New Hope Church prefer classical music or chorales. This is a very small segment spread equally through all demographic categories. Just four percent of attenders would like to hear jazz in worship at New Hope Church. This is too small a number to provide reliable demographic indicators and appears to be spread equally in almost all categories, although the majority of this group are Black and Hispanic. The preference for traditional hymns by those who attend New Hope Church is consistent with Adventists across the U.S. and the interfaith USCL survey. The percentage of New Hope Church attenders who prefer praise music and contemporary Christian music is significantly more than the response among Adventists and even a 9

10 little higher than in other religions. The interest in gospel music, multicultural music, Jesus Rock and jazz are all significantly greater than the average for Adventists, as well as most other denominations, while the percentage interested in classical music is well below that of a number of denominations, including Adventists. Feelings about Worship To explore in more depth the feelings of attenders about the worship experience, a series of eight items were used with the question, How often do you experience the following during worship services at New Hope Church? Each could be answered with one of four responses; always, usually, sometimes or rarely. (See Figure 21.) Similar research from Adventist churches across the U.S. and a large interfaith study have been published in Adventist Congregations Today (pages 7-9) and Beyond the Ordinary: Ten Strengths of U.S. Congregations (pages 28-30). More than four out of five worshipers (82 percent) always or usually feel joy during worship at New Hope Church. Only two percent report that they rarely do so. Hispanics, those over 60 years of age and those who have no church membership anywhere are even more likely to feel joy. The two percent is too small for reliable demographic analysis. Almost an equal number (81 percent) always or usually experience inspiration during the services at New Hope Church. Again, only two percent say they rarely do so. Hispanic respondents are more likely do so, as are those from middle-income households, those with only a secondary education and those who are immigrants. The two percent is too small for reliable demographic analysis. Four out of five worshipers always or usually have a definite sense of God s presence. Just one percent say they rarely do. Hispanic and Black respondents are more likely to feel a divine presence, as are those from middle-income households. One percent is too small a fragment to yield demographic segmentation. Two-thirds of the worshipers (66 percent) usually do not have a sense of fulfilling my obligation when they attend New Hope Church. One in five (19 percent) rarely have such feelings, and 47 percent only sometimes do. Those over 60 years of age are more likely to feel that they are fulfilling an obligation, as are those with little education and those who report their ethnic background as Hispanic, Black or other. Those with a college degree and White respondents rarely feel a sense of fulfilled obligation. Nearly two out of three people in worship at New Hope Church (64 percent) rarely or only sometimes experience spontaneity. Only 36 percent say they always or often do. Hispanic respondents are more likely to say they often experience spontaneity, as are those from lower-middle income households, immigrants and those 10

11 who attend every Sabbath. Respondents in their 30s rarely feel spontaneity and the same is true for those from the poorest households, those with graduate degrees and those who are not members of any church. Two-thirds of worship attenders (67 percent) rarely or only sometimes feel awe or mystery, while a third indicate they always or usually do. Respondents with graduate degrees are more likely to say they rarely feel awe or mystery, while those over 60 years of age and those who have little education are more likely to say they often experience a sense of awe or mystery. Nearly seven in ten worshipers (69 percent) rarely experience boredom during worship at New Hope Church. Just four percent say they are always or often bored. Respondents in their 30s are more likely to say they are rarely bored, as are those from middle income and upper-middle income households, those who are immigrants and those who report their ethnic background is Asian. Four percent is too small a sample to provide reliable demographic analysis of that segment. Seven in ten worship attenders (71 percent) rarely feel frustration with the worship services at New Hope Church. Only four percent are always or often frustrated. Respondents from middle income and upper-middle income are more likely to say they are rarely frustrated, as are those who have a college degree, those who do not have a volunteer ministry assignment at New Hope Church and those who report their ethnic background as Black. There is clear evidence in these data that New Hope Church provides a more vital worship experience than the typical Adventist congregation across America. Attenders are more likely to say they always or usually experience feelings of joy, inspiration and spontaneity, as well as a sense of awe or mystery. They are less likely to feel that they are fulfilling a sense of obligation on Sabbath or to be bored or frustrated. (See Figure 22.) The worship at New Hope Church also exceeds a number of the norms in the USCL interfaith sample. Some 82 percent of New Hope Church worshipers always or usually experience joy as compared to 79 percent of congregations of all faiths, and 81 percent of New Hope Church worshipers are inspired as compared to 78 percent of all religious groups. And 33 percent of New Hope Church worshipers always or usually experience awe or mystery as compared to 25 percent of all religious communities. Evaluation of Worship Attenders at New Hope Church were asked to evaluate various aspects of the worship service on a five-point scale from excellent to poor. The percentages reported here are based on the number of respondents who selected a five or four, which are described as an excellent evaluation; the number of respondents who selected a 11

12 three, which are described as neutral or ambivalent; and the number of respondents who selected a one or two, which are described as an evaluation as poor. Nine out of ten people attending New Hope Church (89 percent) rate the sermons as excellent. (See Figure 23.) Only two percent rate the sermons as poor. Hispanics are even more likely to rate the sermons as excellent. The negative response is too small for demographic analysis. Nearly nine out of ten worship attenders (87 percent) evaluate the music and praise team at New Hope Church as excellent and just two percent indicate that this aspect of worship is poor. Those in their 30s and those who are from an Asian ethnic background are more likely to rate the music and praise team as excellent. Again, the negative response is too small for demographic analysis. Five out of six (85 percent) rate both the order of service and the visual aids (PowerPoint slides, projectors, sermon illustration devices, etc.) used in worship at New Hope Church as excellent. Only one or two percent rate them as poor. Those who attend regularly are more likely to rate these items as excellent, as are respondents under 30 years of age and those who identify their ethnic background as Hispanic. The negative segment is too small to produce reliable demographic profiles. More than four out of five of the people in the pews (83 percent) rate the warmth of the people at New Hope Church as excellent. Just three percent feel that this aspect of worship is poor. Hispanics are more likely to give this response, as are those under 30 years of age and those who have not yet completed a secondary diploma. The three percent negative response is too small for demographic analysis. Four out of five respondents rate the songs we sing as excellent, with only four percent evaluating them as poor. Asian respondents are more likely to give this response as are Hispanics and those who say their ethnic background is other. The four percent who responded negatively is too small for demographic analysis. Three out of four people (74 percent) rate the number in attendance at New Hope Church as excellent. Just three percent rate it as poor, but nearly a quarter (23 percent) are ambivalent about the average attendance. Those in their 30s are more likely to feel that attendance is excellent, as do Asian and Hispanic respondents, those who attend regularly and those who do not have church membership anywhere. The negative three percent is too small for demographic analysis. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents rate Resources for Families as excellent and only four percent give it a negative rating, but a significant number of worship attenders indicated that they were not aware of this element of the program and had no basis to give an evaluation. Those under 30 years of age are more likely to rate this feature as excellent, as are immigrants and those who indicate that their ethnic 12

13 background is Asian, Hispanic or other. The negative response is too small for demographic analysis. Kids Church is the aspect of worship at New Hope Church which received the lowest rating by attenders. Still, a strong majority (61 percent) rated it as excellent and only two percent rated it as poor. This item had an exceptionally high number of nonresponses, so it may be that many people who are not parents of small children feel they have little contact with this program and no information upon which to form an opinion. Respondents in their 30s those most likely to have small children are more likely to give Kids Church an excellent rating. So are those who attend every Sabbath, those who have a volunteer ministry role in the church and those who are members of New Hope Church. The same is true of Hispanics, Blacks and those who identify their ethnic background as other. Again, the two percent negative who gave a negative evaluation is too small to provide a reliable demographic profile. Perceptions of New Hope Church In order to get a more specific idea of the perceptions of the fellowship and ministry at New Hope Church, five statements were included in the questionnaire and respondents were asked to indicate how well each statement describes the congregation on a five-point scale, from very well to not at all. The members are excited about the future of New Hope Church agree nearly nine out ten respondents. (See Figure 24.) Baby Boomers are more likely to agree, as are those from middle and upper-middle income households, those who are members of other Adventist churches, and those who identify their ethnic background as Hispanic or Asian. New Hope Church programs are well organized agree 83 percent of worship attenders. Those from lower-middle and low-income households are more likely to agree, as are immigrants and those who identify their ethnic background as Hispanic. More than four out of five (82 percent) agree that New Hope Church has a clear sense of mission and purpose. Respondents under 30 years of age are more likely to agree, as are those who attend regularly, those from middle-income households and those who report an Hispanic or Black ethnic background. Two-thirds of the respondents (65 percent) agree that New Hope s activities strengthen personal relationships among the congregation. Only five percent disagree. Individuals from low-income households and those with little education are more likely to agree with this statement, as are those under 30 years of age, those who are do not have church membership anywhere and those who identify their ethnic background as Hispanic or Asian. 13

14 About two-thirds of attenders (64 percent) agree that new people are easily assimilated into New Hope Church. Individuals from low-income households are more likely to agree and the same is true for those who have little education. Both those under 30 years of age and those over 60 years of age are more likely to agree, as are those who report an Asian or Black ethnic background and those who have no church membership anywhere. There is more disagreement on this item than any other in this series of questions. A total of eight percent disagree, nearly double the level of disagreement on any other item in this series. Respondents most likely to disagree are those from households with incomes of $75,000 to $99,999 per year. Taken as a whole, the data in this paragraph may reveal a feeling among some upper-middle class members that the assimilation process is uncomfortable to them because it is too inclusive and open to a very diverse group of people. Sense of Belonging More than two-thirds of the people who attend (69 percent) say they have a strong sense of belonging at New Hope Church. (See Figure 25.) The largest portion of these (40 percent of the whole sample) say that their sense of belong is not only strong, but growing. Another 16 percent say it is strong and about the same as last year. Another 13 percent indicate that although their sense of belonging is strong, it is not as strong as in the past. Respondents who attend regularly and have a volunteer assignment at New Hope Church are more likely to indicate a strong sense of belonging and to say that it is growing. The same is true for those an Hispanic, Black or other ethnic background and those who are immigrants. White respondents and those from middle-income households are more likely to say their sense of belonging is strong and about the same as last year. Those over 60 years of age are more likely to say their sense of belong, while strong, is not as strong as in the past. One in four worshipers indicate that their sense of belonging at New Hope Church is not strong. The largest number of these (11 percent) say but I am new here. Almost an equal number (ten percent) say I wish I did, while only four percent say but I am happy as I am. Those who attend less often are more likely to report that they are new here, as are those who have no church membership anywhere or are members of another Adventist church, and those who report their ethnic background as Asian or Hispanic. Those who attend more regularly are more likely to say, but I am new here. New Hope Church has a significantly greater percentage of people who say that they do not have a strong sense of belonging than do most Adventist churches across the U.S. It also has a significantly smaller percentage of people who report that they have a strong sense of belonging. In both cases the percentages are also differ from the USCL interfaith sample. These are all indicators of the fact that New Hope Church is attracting many newcomers and people perhaps, at least initially, more interested in the 14

15 entertaining aspects of worship than in making a real commitment to the congregation and its mission. It may be that the higher percentage of people with little or now sense of belonging at New Hope Church are simply a function of the high numbers of nonmembers who attend and the flow of newcomers each Sabbath. There are so few congregations today, in any Christian denomination, that are attracting such large percentages of visitors that this reality is unusual, but that does not necessarily make it unnatural or a problem. It does mean that one of the important functions that must operate each week at New Hope Church is that of seeking to build the sense of belonging among the non-members who attend, especially those who are there for the second or subsequent time. Involvement in Making Decisions The majority of attenders (57 percent) report that they have been given the opportunity to be involved in the making of important decisions at New Hope Church. (See Figure 26.) The largest number of these respondents also indicate that they almost never (26 percent of the total sample) or only occasionally (19 percent) get involved. This means that only about one in eight of the people who participate in New Hope Church (12 percent) participate in important decisions. Those who have a volunteer assignment at New Hope Church are more likely to be among this 12 percent who usually get involved in decision-making, as are members of New Hope Church, those who attend every Sabbath, those over 60 years of age and those with a graduate degree. Baby Boomers and those from high-income households are more likely to be among those who say they only occasionally get involved, while those who are immigrants or from middle-income homes are more likely to say they rarely get involved. More than two out of five attenders (43 percent) say that they have not been given the opportunity to get involved in making important decisions for New Hope Church. Most of these respondents (37 percent of the whole sample) also indicate that is fine. They have no negative feelings about being left out. Just six percent of New Hope worshipers say they feel excluded from the decision-making process and are not happy about it. Those who are not members of New Hope Church and those have no volunteer assignment are more likely to say they are left out of important decisions, as are those who attend less often, those over 60 years of age and those under 30 years of age. Compared to Adventist churches across the U.S., New Hope Church has significantly more members who feel left out of decision-making, although not significantly more who are unhappy about it. It has fewer than average who feel included in decision-making and participate often or occasionally. This is a significant 15

16 difference from congregations of other faiths in which a much larger percentage of worshipers feel they can get involved in major decisions, according to the findings of the USCL survey. Overall Evaluation of New Hope Church Worship attenders were asked to evaluate ten aspects of New Hope Church on a five-point scale from poor to excellent. Most of these can be considered strengths of New Hope Church because the majority of respondents rated these items with a 4 or 5 on the scale. (See Figure 27.) Only one item was rated a 1, 2 or 3 on the scale by a majority of the respondents. The highest rating was given to the parking at New Hope Church. Nine out of ten respondents rate it as excellent, while only one percent evaluate it as poor. Those over 60 years of age are more likely to rate the parking as excellent, as are those who attend every Sabbath. The negative response is too small to provide a reliable basis for demographic analysis. The worship services each Sabbath were also rated as excellent by nine out of ten (89 percent) of attenders, with only one percent saying they are poor. Those who are in their 30s, those who attend regularly and those from high-income households are more likely to rate the worship services as excellent. Again, the negative response is too small to provide a reliable basis for demographic analysis. Almost as many (88 percent) rate the pastor s leadership as excellent. Only two percent rate it poor. Attenders who are members of another Adventist church, Hispanics and those from lower-middle income households more likely to rate the pastor s leadership at excellent. Two percent of this sample is too small a segment to provide a basis for demographic analysis. Three out of four of the people who attend worship (74 percent) evaluate the children s ministries at New Hope Church as excellent. Just one percent rate these ministries as poor. People in their 30s are more likely to say that children s ministries are excellent, as are Hispanics and Asians, those from high-income households, those who attend every Sabbath, those who have a volunteer ministry assignment at the church, and those who are members of New Hope Church. The negative response is too small to be analyzed. Two-thirds of worshipers rate community service activities sponsored by New Hope Church as excellent, but four percent say that community service is poor. Those under 42 years of age and ethnic minorities are more likely to rate community service as excellent and the same is true for those who are immigrants, those who have little education, those who are members of other Adventist churches and those from middleincome households. The negative response is spread across all demographic segments 16

17 and may be related to some factor that was not included in the questions asked in this survey such as professional education and background. The majority of the people in the pews (58 percent) rate the church board at New Hope Church as excellent, while just three percent evaluate it as poor. Those who attend every Sabbath are more likely to rate the church board as excellent, as are those in their 30s and those who report their ethnic background as Hispanic or Asian. The negative response is too small to provide a reliable demographic profile. The majority of the respondents (56 percent) also rate evangelism at New Hope Church as excellent, but more than one in ten (11 percent) rate it as poor. Those under 42 years of age are more likely to rate evangelism as excellent, as are those attenders who are unchurched, those with little education, immigrants and those who identify their ethnic background as Asian. People over 60 years of age are more likely to rate evangelism as poor, and the same is true for those who are members of New Hope Church, those who attend every Sabbath and those who have a volunteer ministry role at the church. These data present the interesting possibility of a misunderstanding about what evangelism is. Perhaps some dialog and education is in order. A majority of attenders (53 percent) also rate the youth group at New Hope Church as excellent. Another seven percent rate it as poor. Those under 42 years of age are more likely to think the youth group is excellent, as are those who attend every Sabbath, those from middle-income households and those who identify their ethnicity as Hispanic or Black. Members of New Hope Church are more likely to rate the youth group as poor. A bare majority (51 percent) rate the help provided to individuals in need at New Hope Church as excellent, while six percent say it is poor. Those who are under 30 years of age are more likely to rate this aspect excellent, as are those from the poorest households, those with little education and those from an ethnic minority background. People with no church membership anywhere are more likely to rate it as poor. The one area that failed to get an excellent rating from a majority of the respondents is small group ministries. Only six percent rated this area as poor, but only 49 percent rated it as excellent. It appears that a significant number of worship attenders do not know much about small group ministries at New Hope Church and were reluctant to answer this item or gave it a neutral rating. Those under 42 years of age are more likely to rate small group ministries as excellent, as are those from middle to lower-income households and those who identified their ethnic background as Hispanic or Black. Those who rated small group ministries as negative are spread equally across all demographic segments. 17

18 Values at New Hope Church In order to ascertain the values of the congregation as they relate to church activities, worship attenders were given a list of ten items and asked, Which of the following aspects of New Hope Church do you personally most value? They could select up to three items from the list. Less than half the respondents answered this question. The high number of nonresponses indicates that many of the people who attend New Hope Church do not have highly-defined personal or spiritual values. To some degree this is characteristic of the younger age profile of this congregation. Many teens and young adults are at a stage in life where they are only beginning to define themselves and their values as adults. It may also be due to the large numbers of people who are newcomers or visitors at New Hope Church, who may see themselves as more rooted in some other congregation. The data below and displayed in Figure 28 is based only on the half of the respondents who answered this question. Contemporary worship style Nearly half of those who responded to this question selected contemporary style of worship or music as something they value most about New Hope Church. Those over 42 years of age are more likely to value this aspect of the church, as are those from high-income households and immigrants. Clearly this is an important aspect of the ministry of this congregation. Community service Almost as many respondents indicated that community service is an important value to them. Those in their 30s are even stronger on this value, as are those with a college degree and those who are immigrants. The high ranking given to this value points to the need for New Hope Church to do more to strengthen its involvement in serving the local community and the Washington metropolitan area. Diversity The same number reported that the diversity among the congregation is something they highly value. Respondents over 60 years of age are more likely to value diversity as are those in their 30s. The same is true for both those with a graduate degree and those with only a secondary diploma, as well as those from households where the annual income is below $50,000, those who are unchurched and those who have a volunteer assignment at New Hope Church. The Preaching The sermons presented at New Hope Church are an important value for more than two in five respondents. Those over 42 years of age are more likely to value the preaching, as are those from high-income households, those with graduate degrees, and those who are immigrants. Social Activities One in four respondents say that one of the things they value most about New Hope Church is the social activities and meeting new people. Those 18

19 under 30 years of age are more likely to value this aspect of church life, as are those who attend every Sabbath and those who identify their ethnic background as Hispanic or other. Reaching the Unchurched One in five respondents selected reaching those who do not attend church as something they value most about New Hope Church. Those under 30 years of age are more likely to value outreach to the unchurched, as are those who attend less often. Relatively small numbers of people selected the other values included in this question. Clearly the New Hope congregation places little value on praying for one another, caring for one another, small group ministries and the friends they have developed at the church. It is unclear which of two explanations for these data come closer to reality. One possibility is that New Hope has attracted a group of people whose personal values are more instrumental than relational people who want to develop a shared vision for a certain kind of church instead of meet their personal needs for emotional and spiritual support and companionship. Another possibility is that because there are so many newcomers in the congregation and due to the recent move to a new facility, the personal relationships within the group are largely unsettled or superficial. This condition is sometimes present in congregations that experience rapid growth; the expansion of the congregation outpaces the development of strong personal friendships. Either scenario begs attention from the pastoral staff and lay leadership. In the long run it is the fabric of friendships that gives a congregation staying power. What New Hope Values More than the Norm Worship attenders at New Hope Church are nearly five times as likely to personally value a contemporary worship style, community service and diversity than are the people attending most Adventist congregations across America. (See Figure 29.) New Hope worshipers are about three times as likely to value social activities and meeting new people as are most Adventist worshipers in the U.S. They also value the preaching at New Hope Church more than most Adventists do the preaching in their local church. These are significant contrasts that profile the ways New Hope Church is different from the typical Adventist church and describe its unique character. All of these values are also appropriate to the mission of New Hope Church as a progressive Adventist congregation in a major metropolitan area. What New Hope Values Less than the Norm The people who attend New Hope Church are significantly less likely than most Adventist churches to value practical care for individuals in the congregation in times of need and small group ministries. It values friendships at church and praying for one another at the same level as the average Adventist church. (See Figure 30.) This may be surprising in view of the pronounced relational nature of the ministry, but it certainly 19

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