Our Team


Ruth Powell


Dr Ruth Powell is Director of NCLS Research, a research centre that focuses on church vitality and community spirituality and wellbeing. Ruth has worked with NCLS Research since 1991 and became Director in 2007. She also holds a position as Associate Professor and Research Fellow, Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre, Charles Sturt University.

Major projects for NCLS Research include the five-yearly National Church Life Survey, which commenced in 1991 and forms the basis of one of the largest, most comprehensive databases on church life of its kind in the world. The 2016 NCLS included around a quarter of a million church attenders from 3000 local churches representing most Australian Christian denominations, from Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, other Protestant and Pentecostal faith traditions.

Ruth’s role involves managing research projects on both church and community life, as well as the development of resources for local churches, denominational leaders and other community agencies. Her own primary research interests lie in assisting churches to reflect on their interaction with the wider Australian community. As well as church health, and tracking changes in church life over time, she has worked on differences between age cohorts, and potential generational influences over time.

She has co-authored NCLS publications on church life such as Winds of Change, Shaping a Future, Taking Stock, Build My Church, Mission under the Microscope and Enriching Church Life. Her doctoral thesis focussed on age differences among church attenders.



Chandrika Chinnadurai

Web Programmer

Information Technology, Operations

Chandrika is a programmer for NCLS Research. As part of the information technology team she has been responsible for developing the online capabilities for NCLS projects. With a background in computer programming, she facilitates the web-based delivery of survey tools and data reports.

Carole Gan


Research, Operations

Carole is a researcher with NCLS Research. Connected with NCLS Research first as a diocesan regional coordinator in 2007, Carole co-authored several of the NCLS Research fact sheets and occasional papers based on the 2016 NCLS data and is now part of team rolling out the 2021 NCLS research reports.

James Schroder

Applications Developer

Information Technology Operations 

James is a programmer for NCLS Research. As part of the information technology team he provides support in web content management, databases and report production. He has been responsible for developing the online capabilities for the NCLS projects and e-commerce mechanisms. 

Kathy Jacka

Resource Designer, Communications, Associate Researcher

Resource Development (Team Leader), Marketing and Communications, Research, Partner Management

Kathy joined the team in 2006. She oversees the design and production of NCLS Research resources and publications, and is involved with communications, website design, research and partner management. She has a background in teaching, educational leadership, project management, community engagement, missions, counselling and group facilitation. 
She has co-authored NCLS publications on church life, connecting with communities, sustainable leadership and social trends. She designs audio visual resources, workshop processes and communication tools to help people explore and apply their survey findings. Kathy is also an associate researcher in qualitative research projects. 


Digital Product Developer

Information Technology Operations (Team Leader)

Matthew oversees digital product development, ensuring NCLS Research applications are designed and built in an efficient manner using industry accepted techniques and patterns.

Matthew has more than 20 years of experience within the information technology sector, bringing a wealth of knowledge spanning IT infrastructure and development. His role is to help design, coordinate, and deliver online systems.

Miriam Pepper


Research, Resource Development

Dr Miriam Pepper has been a researcher at NCLS Research since 2011. She holds the position of Research Fellow, Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre, Charles Sturt University. She is also a Sessional Lecturer at the United Theological College, teaching social research methods to students enrolled in the Master of Ministry/Doctor of Ministry program.

Miriam has both quantitative and qualitative research skills, cross-disciplinary training (in engineering, German language, environmental science and the social sciences), and a background of community environmental activism.

Her research focuses on a range of areas in the social scientific study of religion, including congregational studies, Christianity and multiculturalism, contemporary Australian spirituality and views and activities related to issues of social service and justice. Her particular interests concern the intersections between religion and environmentalism.

Sam Sterland

Researcher, NCLS Regional Coordinator Liaison

Survey Logistics (Team Leader), Research, Resource Development, Marketing and Communications, Operations, Partner Management

Dr Sam Sterland joined the NCLS Research team in 2001 as a researcher. He is currently involved in research, partner management, resource development, logistics, communications and is a key contact person for the network of NCLS Regional Coordinators in each denomination, state and region in Australia.

Sam has a background in teaching, counselling, psychology, and pastoral ministry and has co-authored NCLS publications on church life and sustainable leadership. He has recently completed a doctorate in organisational leadership, with a focus on the organisational culture of local churches. Sam enjoys turning research into useful resources, presenting, and has a passion to help local churches be healthy and fulfil their mission, and for leaders to avoid burnout and thrive.



Office Assistant

Administrative Operations

Yohanna is the office assistant at NCLS Research. She is responsible for much of the day to day administration of the NCLS team and is often the first point of contact for people connecting with NCLS Research.