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Congregational Assessment Inventories

Over the past thirty years many hundreds of churches have used Hartford Institute’s congregational inventories to assist in their pastoral search and church planning efforts. 

Our three basic surveys and reporting forms are user-friendly and reflect the insights from the most recent up-to-date social science research on congregations.  Recently we instituted an online version that also allows for some customization, is less expensive and has a more rapid turnaround time.

We hope you agree with us that these surveys are the best assessment instruments currently available to churches.

Consult our index below for more information about our church inventories:

Which inventory should you use?
Can I see a sample of the Inventories?

Can I see a sample of the final report?

Is there comparison data?

How does the process work?

How should we distribute the questionnaires?
Should I survey everyone or draw a sample?
What is the cost of the inventories?
How do I order inventories?

Can you provide assistance in interpreting the report?



Which inventory should you use?

We have several preset inventories available:

The Pastoral Search Inventory
This form (with 165 items) focuses on the questions a congregation seeks in its ministerial leadership.  It is designed for congregations looking for a new minister.

The Church Planning Inventory
This instrument (with 210 items) is designed for congregations engaged in a serious in-depth planning process.  This survey is a comprehensive analysis of church programs, including youth & adult education, giving, missions, and evangelism.

The Parish Profile Inventory
This survey (with 110 items) is a shorter version of the other Inventories.  It contains basic items and would be suitable for when a church needs a general overview of congregational dynamics or when the length of the survey is an important issue.

All three Inventory forms include sections dealing with tasks of the church, organizational processes, congregational identity, church facilities, and members’ backgrounds, as well as theological and faith practice characteristics.

All three forms are available in online and PDF print format. We do not offer a mixed survey where we will provide both online and paper versions and then we would enter the data for you; however, churches can do this themselves with the website and PDF online version for a flat rate of $300.

 

Can I see a sample of the Inventories?

The link below will open up a pdf format samples of the three inventory forms as they are in the online version.  To open a pdf document you must have the free Adobe reader installed on your computer.  Download the program at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

The Pastoral Search Inventory (PDF)
View the Pastoral Search Survey online

The Church Planning Inventory (PDF)
View the Church Planning Survey online

The Church Profile Inventory (PDF)
View the basic Church Profile Survey online

Create your own survey from any our questions or customize it by adding some of your own.
View the online survey with all our questions

Can I see a sample of the final report?

The link below opens a pdf format sample of the final results report.  To open a pdf document you must have the free Adobe reader installed on your computer.  Download the program at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

Sample Online Report

Is there comparison data?

Yes! Every so often we take the latest information from the congregations using the Inventories and anonymously enter it into a database from which we run a comparison report. This report is based on our older print only format, so not all the questions will match identically with the online version currently in use.
You can view that report (in pdf format).     

This report summarizes the findings from those churches who used our print Inventories between March 2004 and June 2010, totaling 25,053 respondents from 193 churches. A third of these churches are United Church of Christ, 29% are Presbyterian (PCUSA) and 12% are Episcopal. Other Mainline churches make up nine additional percent, including Lutheran (ELCA), American Baptist and United Methodist.  The remaining roughly 14% are from conservative and Evangelical churches including Southern Baptist, Nondenominational and Church of God. Their average size is in the range of 150-200 active attenders. These churches are from thirty-four states with no single state accounting for more than 10% of the sample. The average response rate for these churches was roughly 30%-35%. 

Many of the questions used in our Inventories are quite similar to those in large national studies.  For additional comparative information you might want to check out the findings of four such studies:


How does the process work?

Once you decide on the proper inventory for your situation, contact the Hartford Institute office. We offer the inventories as a web-based survey with a pdf for printing. The church is required to enter any print copies into the online format.

When you let us know which survey you want, we will set up the survey on surveymonkey and send you the web link within a few days. We will send you a draft model that you can print and make any corrections, deletions or additions. Once these changes are approved, we will send you a final url to the online version and a PDF version to print and distribute to those who do not desire to fill out the online version. You can then distribute the web address to your congregation or post it on your website. Again, if you have completed paper versions, your church will be responsible for transferring the information from paper copies to the online version.

Let us know how long you want the survey to be open to your membership. We suggest at least 4 weeks to 6 weeks with numerous reminders. Once you have decided to end the survey, we will close the site and run the report. We will return the results within 2 days of ending the survey. This service costs $300 in total no matter how many responses you get. If you get less than 50 responses we will charge the church $200. We bill the church after the survey is completed.

What we send you after the survey:

Along with the basic report of findings for either the online or paper versions, you will receive brief instructions to assist you in interpreting your results and the raw data file in Excel format for a consultant or someone in the church who knows Excel or statistics to run the comparisons any way you are interested.

We do not include an interpretive report of the tabulations.  That task is left up to your committee, church and/or local consultant if your congregation chooses to hire one.  

Likewise, we do not generally provide cross-tabulations or correlations for churches.  These require a knowledge of statistics and tests of significance in order to interpret the results which few committees are equipped to do.  As such we found that committees looked at any difference as important when in fact the difference wasn't statistically significant and might have happened by chance, a biased sample, unequal groups or any of a number of other reasons for an observed difference. When we have run comparisons of young and old, male and female, newcomer and old timer, and more and less involved there are actually fewer statistically significant differences than one might imagine.

How should we distribute the questionnaires?

Most congregations distribute the questionnaire web address and encourage its completion in their church newsletter, bulletin and in announcements. Additionally, you might want to mail the link and request to all members (including those who infrequently attend) along with a cover letter.  The cover letter should stress the importance of a high return rate and describe the projected uses of the questionnaire results.  The letter should also include clear instructions telling people how, and by what date, they should go online and complete the questionnaire to your church, or call and ask the church for a paper version to be sent. 

Announcements and reminders in bulletins, newsletters, and from the pulpit are very important.  Some churches have also found it helpful to telephone or email members in order to increase their return rates. Other churches have help survey days where they set up a bank of computers during coffee hour and enlist assistants to help members fill out the survey. Remember, the accuracy and usefulness of your results is heavily affected by your rate of return. You should allow three to four weeks for persons to return their completed questionnaires. 

Should I survey everyone, just attenders or draw a sample?

We do not encourage churches to survey just their attendees, but rather open up the process to all members 15 years of age or older.  Many important findings can be uncovered by allowing less involved members to have their say. 

Since the survey is online and the church is charged a flat fee no matter how many surveys are completed, we do not recommend sampling, but rather surveying the entire membership.

What is the cost of the inventories?

The cost of any online version is $300 in total.

When we offered the surveys in print the cost of the paper inventories were as follows:

Church Planning Inventory
.50 per blank questionnaire
3.00 per questionnaire tabulated
100.00 Administrative fee
Pastoral Search Inventory
.50 per blank questionnaire
2.75 per questionnaire tabulated
100.00 Administrative fee
Parish Profile Inventory
.50 per blank questionnaire
2.50 per questionnaire tabulated
100.00 Administrative fee


How do I order inventories?

To order any of our inventories, or for additional information, call (860) 509-9542, email Sheryl Wiggins at swiggins@hartsem.edu or write:

Hartford Seminary, Hartford Institute for Religion Research
77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT  06105  

This web site also contains numerous resources for interpreting the report and researching the census data and community make-up of your local area. Specifically visit our Congregational Studies section or Research Resources section.

Can you provide assistance in interpreting the report?

Sorry, we have discontinued this service.  

 

You may also want to read a summary of the research conducted by Adair Lummis titled "What do lay people want in Pastors?"

 

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