A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

And the Survey Says…

Posted on: November 6, 2015

Demographers and statisticians aside, the average person may not be all that excited about the reinstatement of Canada’s long-form census. But I am.

I remember hearing my dad talk on the phone with Statistics Canada staff about how he had responded to certain questions, and I wondered what the fuss was about. When it was my turn to fill out a census form, I was disappointed to receive only a short-form census. Then the long-form census was no more, replaced by the 2011 National Household Survey.

So I was pleased to hear yesterday that the long-form census will make its comeback next year. Tedious though some may find it to fill out their forms, the census will give the government the updated data needed to make informed decisions about programs.

After hearing the news, I started thinking that parishes could benefit from their own surveys.

For example, one Anglican parish I attended surveyed the congregation about whether to maintain or expand the church or convert another building for use as a church. New members were also asked about skills they’d developed in their jobs or non-work life that they could use as volunteers in the parish. Several years ago, the parish I now belong to conducted a survey about a possible youth ministry.

Ideally, people would volunteer to serve in parish ministries. Ideally, parish ministry fairs would draw out parishioners ready and willing to sign up. In reality, when people are new to a parish, they may be reluctant to volunteer. Busy schedules may not allow people time to linger long after Mass to check out the opportunities at a ministry fair. And with multiple Sunday services in a parish and multi-point parishes, it’s not reasonable to expect the parish priest or deacon to be solely responsible for determining which parishioners would make excellent readers, children’s liturgy leaders or choir members.

Having ministry leader contacts in the parish bulletin is a good start, and up-to-date ministry descriptions and e-mail contacts for leaders help, but why not include a brief survey in a new member package that asks about parishioners’ skills or the ministries that interest them? Why not have online surveys that allow parishioners to express interest in particular ministries or acknowledge they don’t know much about the work of a given parish group?

Parishioners whose catering skills could help funeral receptions run more smoothly, whose accounting skills could benefit the finance council, or whose managerial experience could make them effective leaders of the parish Knights or CWL might not step forward if they’re new to the area or if they sense the parish has a culture where “this is the way things are done, and these are the people who have always done them.” I know I’ve experienced these situations, and the “once burned, twice shy” adage certainly applies to prospective volunteers.

Giving people the chance to quietly, matter-of-factly describe their skills and the ministries where they feel they could contribute could give new and longtime parishioners a chance to use their gifts, increasing their sense of community and belonging, and it could offer parish ministries the opportunity to invite and welcome new members with fresh ideas.

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2 Responses to "And the Survey Says…"

Thank you for your wonderful writing. I happened to come by it randomly and am glad I did. You have a new reader. Keep t up 🙂

-H

Thanks for the kind feedback 🙂

Comments are closed.

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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