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Researchers seek readers’ help for Church Times survey

by
12 April 2024

LONG ago, in 2001, the Church Times ran a four-page survey designed to listen to its readers on a wide range of topics, from the ordination of women to funding church schools.

It was well received: nearly 10,000 people posted in their responses. In 2013, the ran the survey again, this time both in print and online, repeating the same questions and adding new ones that picked up some new issues facing the Church. It was also well received, and there were enough responses to allow detailed comparisons with the earlier survey.

The results of those surveys have shown how opinions shifted across the Church of England on some issues, but not on others, and in some groups, but not in others. Ten years on, the same researchers, Professors Leslie Francis and Andrew Village, want to run the survey again, and they are asking for your help.

During the Covid pandemic, the Church Times helped them to run two surveys that were entirely online, and which also had thousands of responses. They showed how different sections of the Church reacted to the closure of church buildings, the advent of online worship, and the stress of ministering when everything had changed in an instant.

The results allowed the team to publish numerous academic articles, which were reported over many months in our Comment section. This seemed a good way of supporting some rigorous research, and reporting the key findings to our readers.

The Church-24 survey has three main objectives:
 

  1. To repeat some of the questions given in 2001 and 2013, to see where opinions lie now.
  2. To explore some new issues that face us now, or soon will, but which were not talked about so much a decade ago: issues such as climate change, safeguarding procedures, artificial intelligence, or assisted dying. Churches are having to respond to these issues; so it would be good to know what people think about these matters.
  3. The Covid pandemic is over . . . or is it? What’s happened to you and your church since lockdowns ended? Some say we have moved on and it’s all over, but others are not so sure.
     

As with the previous surveys, Church-24 is asking some serious questions of serious people. The professors do not do the two-minute “vox pop”-style surveys that are useful for feedback on your customer service experiences, but which are useless in understanding the complexities of Christian faith and church life today.

They are asking you to give 15-20 minutes of your time, and a certain amount of thought, to a survey that will explore something about you, what you believe about some big issues, and your experiences of church life since the pandemic. They will analyse the data, produce academic peer-reviewed articles, and report those findings back to our readers as they did during the pandemic, using pithy articles (with those pithy cartoons as well, perhaps).

If you would like to take part, you can follow the link below. The survey is most easily done on a computer or tablet, but it can be completed using a smartphone. If you need to pause halfway through, you can return to the survey using the link on the same device within a week, and it will pick up where you left off. You must answer some questions, so that you will get the right set of questions for your particular context.

This is a survey for clergy, lay ministers, and lay people, and you do not have to be Church of England, or even a churchgoer, to take part. The first page of the survey has more information about the survey and how the data will be used. To access the survey, follow the link tinyurl.com/CTSurvey24, or scan the QR code with your smartphone. Feel free to encourage others in your church and beyond to take the survey by sharing this link.

The survey will run for several months, and we will try and give updates on progress from time to time. Your help with this project is greatly appreciated, and will help researchers and church leaders to understand better the grass roots of the Church.

If you want to know more about the previous two Church Times surveys, they are reported in detail in: Fragmented Faith? Exposing the fault-lines in the Church of England, by Leslie J. Francis, Mandy Robbins, and Jeff Astley, published by Paternoster Press; and The Church of England in the First Decade of the 21st Century: The Church Times surveys, by Andrew Village, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Details of the findings of Covid pandemic surveys can be found on the project website, yorksj.ac.uk/coronavirus-church-and-you, which has links to the Church Times articles.

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