Fourteen ways to help your church to do street questionnaires easily yet effectively

questionFollowing on from yesterday’s blog about why you should be doing street questionnaires, here’s fourteen ways to help your church to do street questionnaires easily yet effectively.

  1. Where? It’s a free country, so you can ask people questions in the street without a permit or licence. Remember that arcades and places like the Metro Centre are private property, so probably wouldn’t allow you. A pedestrianised street is a good place. Be sensitive, and choose a good spot with lots of passers-by, but where you are not causing an obstruction or difficulty. Watch where the buskers go, but don’t steal their spot. If it is in the sunshine, so much the better. Be prepared to move to a better pitch if necessary. If you aren’t doing very well, then change something (a good motto for churches in general).
  2. When? Professional market-researchers on the street will often do a six-hour shift. You don’t need to do that – an hour and a half is more than enough. Hexham shops are open 9 to 5, but it only really gets busy between 10:30am and 1pm and then again between 3pm and 4pm as the schools turn out. Experiment to find the best time in your town. If it’s pouring down then don’t bother.
  3. Who? It’s good to do it in pairs if possible (somebody new with somebody experienced?), but one person can do it on their own. You don’t need special training or particular qualities, just a willingness to be out there.
  4. What to wear? Dress for success. My personal experience is that dressing smartly does make for a better response. You need warm, comfortable clothes and shoes.
  5. Who to ask? Don’t just look for the usual suspects, ask everybody. Speak to the wheelchair user, not the wheelchair pusher. Watch out for the person just standing around watching you. Be sensitive to the person who is a bit nervous of you.
  6. What to ask first? The right opening question helps you get a good response. “Excuse me, do you have time to fill in a survey?” has the answer “No” (because I’m a very busy person with lots to do and surveys take forever). “Excuse me, please can you help me with some questions?” has the answer “Yes” (because I like helping people and some questions shouldn’t take long).
  7. What to ask? This is the heart of your survey, so you need to decide carefully what you want out of this. You can make people think by asking: “What is the point of life?” You can find out information by asking: “What do you think are the needs round here that the church could address?” or “If you could ask God a question what would you ask?” You can find out generational differences of knowledge of the Bible by asking parents and children a series of questions on the lines of “Can you tell me who built an ark?” Take time on choosing just the right questions, with just the right wording.
  8. What not to ask? Don’t ask irrelevant questions. Professional market researchers need to distinguish by demography, which is why they ask for your age group, occupation, ethnicity, income, marital status etc. We want everybody, so there’s no need to waste time on these. Don’t ask leading questions such as “Would you be more likely to come to a church which had relevant preaching, exciting music and an accessible approach?” Don’t ask too many questions. You are more concerned that your interviewees should feel positive about the experience of meeting you, rather than you have extracted every last piece of data from them. Five questions are more than enough. If you use a clipboard and let people look at the questions as you ask them, then this builds confidence that you won’t be too long.
  9. What to do with rejection? Lots of people will be too busy to take part. That’s fine. It’s not a personal rejection of you if they say no – this is a survey not a marriage proposal. Continue to be polite and ask the next person. Some people may reject you once, but then come back again, once they feel a bit more confident.
  10. What to do with discussion? Welcome interaction with people, that’s what you are there for. I haven’t personally come across people being argumentative or difficult yet. If they are, then continue to be polite and gracious. We want to win people not arguments. Listen to what people have to say. They may have had a bad church experience. Apologise for it. They may be hurting. Tell them God loves them. They may have questions. If you can’t answer them on the spot, invite them to meet the pastor. It’s OK (and indeed can be very helpful) to say you just don’t know.
  11. What to do at the end? Thank people very much for their time and then give them a nicely produced (bad photocopies are not helpful) invitation to your next appropriate event, and website details, which they can take away (your church is worth inviting people to isn’t it?)
  12. What to do with the information? It’s important that you write down the answers you are given accurately and then use them (otherwise why are you asking?). Let the answers inform your sermons, your church’s social care, your church’s ethos. Tell the rest of the church what you have found out. Make a press release of the results and tell the town what you have discovered. The better you know your community, the better you can serve them.
  13. What can the rest of the church do? If there are those who find a street questionnaire a step too far, then ask them to be on your backup prayer team. They can also bring a hot drink for the researchers – top tip – do this towards the end of the time they are standing in the cold on the street, not the beginning…….
  14. But the best way to learn how to do a street questionnaire is to just do it! You can start tomorrow, learn from your experience and then do it better the next day. It’s simple and effective. So what’s stopping you?
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