10 Community Questions Pastors Should Be Prepared to Answer

When I do a church consultation, I usually want to know if pastoral leaders know the answers to the questions below. Too often, they don’t—and that finding usually coincides with finding a church that is inwardly focused.

  1. Is your community growing, stagnant, or declining? This question ought to be an easy one, but I’m surprised by how many pastors aren’t sure of the answer.
  2. What is the ethnic makeup of your community? It’s hard to reach a community you don’t really know.
  3. What percentage of your community does not look like your church? Many pastors assume their congregation reflects the community, but that’s not always accurate.
  4. What’s the age demographic of your community? In many cases, pastors are shocked when they learn how young their community is (primarily because their church is older).
  5. What’s the fastest growing age segment of your community’s population? Pastors who can’t answer that question usually aren’t thinking strategically about the future.
  6. How many people in your community attend church every Sunday? This answer is usually easier to find than the number of unchurched people in your community—but it answers both questions.   
  7. How many languages are spoken in homes in your community? You might be surprised by this answer. Just because people speak English in public doesn’t mean that’s the language they use every day—or the language in which they would most prefer to worship.
  8. What’s the average household income in your community? Sometimes it’s quite different than the assumed average income in the church, reminding us again that our congregations don’t always reflect our community.
  9. What is the name of the primary political leader in your community? Maybe it’s a council chairperson, a mayor, or someone with another title; regardless of the position, though, you should know this person.
  10. What’s the growth goal/plan for the community in the next decade? Pastors who are thinking about the future know this information. 

What questions would you add? How many of these questions can you answer?

10 Comments

  • Mark says:

    You also should know who the transient people are in the city. Examples are Boston which has a huge number of (under)graduate students, medical students, residents, and all kinds of fellows. Washington has Congressional staffers, agency interns, and NIH research and clinical fellows. These cities are different than most in that the transients are ultra-educated and the jobs there are coveted and hyper-competitive. I know churches want permanent members who will be there for life but that is not always the case. Only a few churches and Jewish temples have associate clergy strictly for these groups of younger people.

  • Tyler Bursick says:

    NAMB provides free demographic reports that will help pastors get answers to these questions. I have found it to be a very helpful tool in reaching our community.

  • Jason says:

    North Carolina baptists have this information available for each SBC church, but they are the o my ones I’ve seen do that. If you are in a church somewhere else, where do you look this information up?

  • Mike says:

    How would you suggest finding the answers to many of the questions?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Within SBC life, many state conventions as well as NAMB provide much of this information. I also recommend Percept and Mission Insite organizations. 

       
  • Robin Jordan says:

    May I suggest an article series on how pastors and other church leaders can gather this kind of information, where they can obtain it, and how they can use it, an article series written not just for Southern Baptists but also for other Christians. It would be very helpful. I have done windshield surveys, gleaned useful demographic information from census reports and useful psychographic information from commercial marketing sources. With the help of my pastor at the time I was also able to obtain this type of information from the state convention. But that was over 10 years ago.

  • Adam says:

    One addition, how have each of the above changed over the last 20 years.

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