What a great response! Some 236 people responded to the ANW Conference’s survey on Evangelism.
An overwhelming majority of respondents believe faith should be shared with others. Approximately 88 per cent of lay respondents and 97 per cent ministry personnel said faith needed to be passed on to others.
The survey was in response to the ANW Conference Executive setting evangelism as one of its priorities. The Executive, under the leadership of President Paul Walfall and Executive Secretary Lynn Maki, developed the survey with the aim of investigating attitudes towards evangelism within ANW Conference and that the results would then be able to assist congregations to fulfil their responsibility for evangelism as stated in the manual.
Responses to the online survey came from all nine presbyteries of the Conference. Out of the 236 respondents, 132 were lay people and 104 were ministry respondents.
The survey asked people to give a definition to evangelism. Approximately 222 chose to write down their definition of evangelism. Lay people were more likely than ministry personnel to define evangelism negatively. Approximately 19 per cent of lay respondents defined evangelism in negative terms such as “fire and brimstone” or “attempting to influence others who do not share one’s religious beliefs.”
In contrast, 95 out of 99 ministry personnel who chose to define evangelism did so in positive terms. Out of the other four, three gave definitions that suggested evangelism could have a negative connotation as well as a positive one. For example, said one such ministry personnel, evangelism is “sharing the Good News associated with Jesus, however, as you know, it also can mean rather negative, exclusive views.”
Approximately 88 per cent of lay people and 97 per cent of ministry personnel respondents said it was important to share faith. Said one person: “Many people honestly don’t know God loves them; many people have warped ideas about Jesus and what He means and who He is. They should at least know enough to be able to make an informed choice.” Another said: “If you have something great, why would you not want to share it? How do we help grow the Kingdom into full flower without talking about it?”
The survey asked what areas or topics of Evangelism people would be interested in learning more about. The most frequent response from lay and ministry personnel was to learn to express their faith or beliefs in a non-judgemental, non-threatening way that is respectful. Some said they found it helpful to learn what other United Churches were doing. A few mentioned the blogs by Paul Walfall on Good News and Sharing faith were helpful and ones that had been shared with their congregation. Approximately five lay respondents thought evangelism should be changed to mean social justice or outreach. Three said they weren’t interested in evangelism.
The survey was offered online through Survey Monkey and its link distributed through the Conference e-newsletter list of approximately 612 persons on February 17, 25, March 2 and March 7. The Survey link was also made available on the ANW Conference Facebook page.
Follow up to the Evangelism Survey:
The Conference Executive is setting up a five-member committee to develop a two-year evangelism education strategy for the Conference. It’s membership will include the Conference President as ex-officio. The strategy will involve online resources for congregations. If you are interested in being part of the committee, please email Conference Executive Secretary Lynn Maki.
Interested in more information on the survey results? You can find PDF copies of the eight-page summary report, the 74-page Data report as well as the survey questions on the ANW website. https://albertanorthwestconference.ca/evangelismsurveyreport/