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Church census rolling out

Church census

Team effort: Some of the 2016 National Church Life Survey team meeting in Brisbane.

PARISHIONERS across Brisbane archdiocese will be asked to take part in the largest and longest-running survey of Church life in the world later this year.

The 2016 National Church Life Survey will be rolled out in October, with all Christian churches invited to participate.

“After 25 years, and conducted every five years it is the largest, longest survey of Church life in the world,” NCLS Research director Dr Ruth Powell said.

“It is only possible with the joint participation of thousands of church leaders nationwide.” 

Strong commendations have been received from Catholic and Anglican archbishops and bishops, as well as national and state leaders of denominations and movements across the country.

“In collaboration with denominations, NCLS Research has recently mailed an invitational brochure to local churches outlining the reasons for the 2016 NCLS, presenting the benefits of taking part for a local church and the resources a church will receive,” Dr Powell said. 

She said the survey built on the approach once adopted by missionaries to understand the land in which they were going to.

“Mission has come home,” Dr Powell said. 

“What we need to understand now is our own backyard – what are the hopes and needs of the community, of God’s meaning, and the purpose of the Church?

“And the survey will help answer what we need to do to build healthy churches and what a healthy church look likes.”

Dr Ruth Powell

Researcher: Dr Ruth Powell.

The survey will cover a wide range of issues. It will include questions around practical parish matters, local administration, care programs, emergency services and social justice.

It will also probe attitudes on hot-button issues including same-sex marriage, abortion, the environment, refugees and treatment of asylum seekers.

“We want to reclaim a positive contribution to faith, personal growth and the role churches can have in our communities,” Dr Powell said.

NCLS Research is working with denominational leaders on the survey design and the best way to deliver it to suit churches. 

Some denominations integrate the NCLS with their own strategic plans and some subsidise the costs for local churches. 

International and national researchers are also being consulted on wide-ranging research topics.

The overall cost of the 2016 NCLS is $2 million and 3000 local churches are expected to take part. 

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is one of the funding contributors.

“I am gratified to hear of denominations who plan to encourage high participation of their local churches, including financial support,” Dr Powell said.

“They are embracing the full opportunities the NCLS offers to inform strategic leadership.”

Every local church is welcome to take part in the 2016 NCLS – whether or not their region is fully involved.

By Mark Bowling

Catholic Church Insurance

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