NCLS Research

Fact Sheet: Churches with a Faith Sharing Culture

What are the characteristics of churches that have a culture of faith sharing? This fact sheet provides a quick snapshot of some keys the NCLS Research team has identified in churches effectively ‘going and making disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Inviting Culture

Churches with a strong ‘culture of inviting’ share these factors:

  • Local church mission activities are present

Creating an outward focus, contexts for faith sharing and a culture of evangelism amongst attenders is increased through activities such as evangelistic church services, events, or Bible studies, door-knocking, outdoor evangelism, or drop-in centres. Those involved are more likely to have invited someone to church in the past year and to be at ease sharing their faith (Mission under the Microscope p.48).

  • Attenders feel empowered and mobilised

Where attenders feel that their own gifts are recognised and that their contribution is valued, higher levels of sharing faith and inviting to church are likely to exist (see Enriching Church Life, p.48). Churches also have higher levels of sharing and inviting when training specifically for outreach and evangelism is provided.

  • Churches are inclusive and enriching:

Creating an inclusive, welcoming environment for newcomers ensures those reached have a positive first experience on arrival, and a warm and consistent welcome as they are integrated over time. This integration can be facilitated by visits, hospitality, programs and groups, an enriching sense of community and nurturing worship. In churches with strong inclusion, attenders are more likely to share their faith and invite others (Enriching Church Life, p.51).

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Local Evangelistic Activities

Across Australia 14% of churches in 2006 indicated they put on 'Evangelistic church services or events' monthly or more often, and another 45% indicated they had done so occasionally over the previous year. The strongest denominations in this regard were the Pentecostals, with Christian City Churches the highest, indicating 46% monthly or more often and 54% occasionally.

Table 3: Evangelistic Activities

The denomination with the highest percentage of churches practicing at least one form of outreach was the Salvation Army, with 79% of churches indicating at least one of the outreach strategies listed was practised monthly or more often. While their proportion of churches conducting evangelistic services and Bible studies was about average, such a high figure was due to the high proportion of churches conducting programs related to street evangelism, drop-in centres, or visiting.

Attenders & Evangelism

Figure 4: Church attender involvement

Q. Do you regularly take part in any activities of this congregation that reach out to the wider community? (Mark ALL that apply)

  • Yes, in evangelistic or outreach activities
  • Yes, in community service, social justice or welfare activities of this congregation
  • No, we don't have such activities
  • No, I am not regularly involved

Attenders were asked about their involvement in any activities of their congregation which reach out to the wider community. In Australia 18% of attenders were involved regularly in such outreach or evangelistic activities in 2006 compared to 14% in 2001, (see Figure 4).

Levels of involvement by denomination are highest among Pentecostals (37%), and Baptists (29%), and lowest among Lutherans (16%) and Catholics (7%). Previous research has suggested that family education as well as an emphasis on the Catholic school system contributes to Catholic parishes having fewer formal evangelistic programs than their Protestant counterparts (Taking Stock, p.66).

Figure 5

How many churches are training people?
The 2006 NCLS Operations Survey asked:

'Has this congregation offered significant training for lay people in the following leadership or ministry roles in the past 2 years?'


Inclusion: An Important Part of the Process

One factor that will naturally affect people's willingness to invite is whether they think their friends will be treated well. Churches with higher levels of sense of belonging have higher inviting levels (Enriching Church Life, p48); the closeness of the group no doubt helps confidence in the church as a place where friends will be welcomed. A culture of inclusion is as important as a culture of inviting if new people are to stay, and eventually consider themselves belonging to the church. Churches that provide ways to intentionally include new people have significantly more success in retaining them (Enriching Church Life, p28).

The 2006 NCLS Operations Survey asked whether a church had planned procedures to follow up new people and help them to become integrated into the congregation. The results for churches in Australia and other comparisons are shown in Table 6.

Table 6

Creating a culture of evangelism and an outward focus as a church is enriched through local church mission activities being present, mobilising attenders to share their faith and creating an inclusive and enriching environment where newcomers are well integrated. Programs and training also have an important place, not only with direct evangelistic value, but because of the confidence in church that they engender in church attenders.

Sources
Sam Sterland, Ruth Powell, Michael Pippett with the NCLS Research team.

References
This fact sheet was based on Occasional Paper 13: Faith-sharing activities by Australian Churches.


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