Conducting a church audit to find out the marital status of your congregation

Clergy report that they are often unaware of the relative numbers of those who are married, single or single parents. A church audit will highlight if your congregation is representative of  the area and also the relative proportions of married and single people.  We recommend using - the Big Church Survey tool as a means for doing this. 

Establish purpose

It is essential that reasons are given for the survey to the congregation and this will also shape the data collected. Examples include:

  • To ensure your church is appealing to your parish, area or type of person you want to attract
  • To see if there is any section of community to which outreach might be made
  • To find out if there are needs within the congregation that might have been overlooked
  • To compare with other churches in the immediate vicinity or in similar situations across UK

Establish a procedure for confidentiality

People may not wish to say what their marital status is, particularly if they expect the church to be judgmental about their situation in some way. A process should be put into place that allows them to answer honestly but anonymously. The easiest is to have a piece of paper that is completed at a service, which can be placed into a box without the need for any eyes to see in advance.

Use the Big Church Survey project 

This is an interdenominational project run by Church of England's Statistics and Research Unit in conjunction with other denominations.  

This will answer such questions and also allow you to compare your church with those around or in similar situations. 

Although not recommended, if you wish to run your own, the following are ideas to consider:

Questions to ask 

  • Gender: Male/Female
  • Age bands as follows: 16 - 29; 30 - 44; 45 - 59; 60 - 75; 75+
  • Marital status: Never Married, Married, Cohabiting; Remarried, Widowed, Divorced, Separated
  • Responsible day to day for dependent children (under the age of 16): Y / N
  • Some may want to add the option of saying whether they are gay or not.

When to do it

There are number of options in deciding when and how to do the survey, which include:

  • At a service, with a piece of paper
  • At a general meeting, when the majority of the members are gathered, again probably with paper
  • Online through a free service such as (a number are available). The address could be given to the congregation by Sunday notice sheet or on the church website for a limited period. If this is used, then some checking qualification should be made, such as a code word, to prevent random entries.