Is your congregation representative of your local area?

40% of society is single but in the church it is often much lower. You may want to do an audit to find out what types of single people are in your local area and whether your church reflects this. You may find you have more single people in your community than you think!
To conduct a church audit you need to find out two things:
1) The demographic of your current congregation
2) The demographic of your local area.

Once you know how many people there are in your church and local area, you can compare them. If your congregation is roughly the same as the statistics of the local area then your congregation is representative. If the numbers are different (remember quite small changes in percentages actually mean a lot of people are missing) then your congregation is not fully representative, and you may want to look more closely at what you can do to make single people feel welcome in your church.

Step 1 - find out who is in your church. 

There are a number of ways you can do this, but to be accurate you need to find an anonymous way of surveying your congregation. You’re unlikely to be able to identify everyone who is or isn’t single without asking because there are so many categories of people who count as single (never married, divorced, widowed etc.). To do this you need to do four things. 
A - Establish purpose and explain why you are doing the survey 
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 who are not currently being reached. 
  • 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 

B - 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.  
C – When and how to conduct the survey. 
We suggest that the easiest and most effective way you can do this is to 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 - so it will give you some idea of how representative your congregation is.
Whilst we suggest using the Big Church Survey project, if you would rather run your own survey, you should consider the following ideas when developing your own: 
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 churches may want to add the option of expressing sexuality

D - When to conduct the survey

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. 

Step 2 - find out who lives in your local area

Now to compare these figures you need to gather two sets of data. One of these is the people who are single in a local area. Unfortunately at the moment the easiest to access data is from the 2011 Census, so it is likely there are now more single and cohabiting households in your area than this data suggests. 
To find the data for your area go to this page on the nomis (labour market statistics website) 
More information on how to conduct this part of the research can be found in our downloadable guide.