NCLS Research

National Church Life Survey 2001

In May 2001 over 435 000 church attenders in more than 7000 Australian churches across 19 denominations, took part in the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) making it one of the largest surveys of its kind in the world. These denominations represent more than 80% of regular church attenders in Australia.

Below is an overview of the project or you can explore further using the following options:

Going Deeper

Who Took Part - which denominations and regions took part in NCLS 2001
Survey Questions - the primary survey questionnaire completed by most attenders
Survey Logistics - information and resources related to carrying out the survey across 7000 churches
Survey Outcomes - some of the survey outcomes

An Overview of National Church Life Survey 2001

The survey is an opportunity for churches to reflect on their life and mission, leadership and connection with the community.

NCLS 2001 was conducted as part of an international partnership concerned about the mission of the church into the new millennium. These partners come from four countries - Australia, the USA, England and New Zealand - and are connected with many of the major denominations around the world.

Purpose of project

The purpose of the project is to:
  • Analyse trends into church life comparing with previous surveys
  • Carry out more detailed analysis of the relationships between factors that are apparent in healthy churches
  • Provide resources to Churches to assist ministry relevance
  • Carry out more detailed analysis on effective and sustainable leadership.

Key Topics

Attender Data
Attendance, beliefs, practices, attitudes, church life, faith development

Congregational data
Church effectiveness, health, experience,

Leadership data
Experience, attitudes, training, sustainability, personality, relationships, roles, beliefs

Data Sets from 2001, 1996 and 1991

Attender Data
Survey types242212
Congregational data
Survey typesData set aggregated from attender data
Participating congregations7,1006,9006,700
Leadership data
Survey types211


Participation in the survey is administered via 90 “contact people” These people encourage the participation of congregations within their denomination. There is no sampling process however a weighting of data carried out based on estimates of attendance rates calculated for each major denomination in Australia.

One “core” survey is distributed to 85% of attenders in each congregation and a further 23 surveys (2001) are randomly distributed to the other 15% of attenders. The 23 small sample surveys provide data on a range of issues.

Attender information from the core survey is aggregated into congregational level data. This allows for material to be produced for research at congregational level plus the ability to produce congregation specific resources

The leaders of participating congregations are also asked to complete a separate leadership form. All identifiers are removed from the leadership data.

There are three discrete databases that result from each survey; attender, congregational and leader.

Ethics approvals

This survey was carried out under the oversight of the Edith Cowan University Ethics Committee.

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