David Ogilvy, Grandfather and doyen of advertising throughout the world said:

"People who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals."

To put it another way – In order to put your best leadership, strategic and creative foot forward, ensure it is the right foot first. That first step should be research.

Research can assist churches and communications staff in so many different ways:

1) Demographic research

Demographic research will provide a snapshot of what your local community looks like. Their ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, gender, income. By understanding who they are and what issues are important to them you will have a clearer understanding on how to connect with them. If you think the inerrancy of scripture is top of the preaching calendar, yet their highest need is to how they are going to pay the next mortgage bill you may be missing the mark. A preaching series on 'how God wants us to use our money' is obviously more appropriate.

There are plenty of tools that will help you find out who your community are including:

Australian Bureau of Statistics

American Census Bureau

Your community profile (Most Australian councils have one, visit your local council website, this provides alot more in depth analysis about your community)

Kem Meyer, the Jedi Communications Warrior Princess provides an excellent insight on this topic and digs deeper here and here.

You can even pay for researchers to do more work for you. But you will need deep pockets.

2) Focus group research

Focus groups can tell you what your communities, congregations and staff perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes are towards your church. What they think is important may not what you think is important. They may think you are brilliant, or they may not have even heard of you. They may love your brand or think it looks old and tired. Do you know what their highest need is? You will never know unless you hear from them directly. 

3) Survey

Find out you how well your church community doing in their spiritual journey. We did a survey last year and it changed much of what we preached on for the rest of the year because we knew what areas needed to be taught. It gave us an honest, sobering account of the state of our church.

I got the basis from the survey from Leading Smart and Evotional. If you leave a comment and your email address I will email you the survey we did. There were 30 questions, over 1,200 responses and 30,000 variables. It took over a month of 4 of my amazing volunteers to put an incredible snapshot of the church together. 

4) Find the right suppliers, staff or volunteers

Ask around before you commit to a new product, system, people. You'll get behind the marketing, CV's polish and get the real story. We were looking for a new church management system last year and I asked around 20 churches what they used. I also asked the churches that used the system we were thinking of using their opinion. Their feedback was priceless in helping us make a final decision.

Think of a project you are working on. Are you are armed with the all the facts and research you need to take the first step in a realistic, informed way?

Have you ever done research?

How did your research help you?

What would you like to research more about?

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