SUMMARY OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SURVEY
AND ENVISIONING WEEKEND (12/7-9/2018)
A congregational survey was taken at St. James’ on two consecutive Sundays in September 2018, with a total of 54 surveys returned out of 54 distributed. Respondent information included:
- 19 men and 35 women
- 28 persons regularly attend the 8:00 service and 32 respondents attend the 10:30 service. An additional 7 attend midweek service regularly and 17 participate in Advent and Lenten programs
- The vast majority were either over 50 years old (24 persons) or over 70 (29), with 70% of them retired.
- 4 respondents reported school-aged children at home and 4 have college-aged children at home. 3 regularly take care of grandchildren. 44 reported an empty next.
- 61% have been members of St. James’ for over 10 years, with more than half of these claiming membership for more than 20 years.
- The majority (68%) live from 5 to 15 minutes away from the church
- 38 persons (70%) listed themselves as givers of record, with an additional 8 claiming a tithe to church and charity
- 74% had college diplomas, over half of these with graduate degrees.
Parish Priorities and Preferences:
Of those who answered this question, 32 persons said they did not want to see any changes in the services, which are Rite I for Sunday 8:00 and Wednesday 10:00, and Rite II for Sunday 10:30. 3 persons expressed a desire to have Rite II Prayers of the People at the 8:00 service.
In terms of size three years from now, 19 persons expressed the hope that St. James’ would be 10% larger in membership and Average Sunday Attendance; 13 wanted to see a 20% growth; and 15 a 50% growth, a fairly even distribution. 5 persons were satisfied with the current membership of about 150-175 active members and an ASA of 84-86.
Those areas of importance in the parish given the most Very Important ratings (#1 on the scale) were:
- Quality of Preaching (highest amount of #1 ratings)
- Church Growth, with the integration of new members
- Sunday school and Christian education
- Fellowship among the members
- Music Ministry
- Youth and young adult ministry
- Pastoral Care of members, with opportunity for ministry
Strong Support (with many “Somewhat Important” rating of #2, in addition to the #1 ratings) included:
- Stewardship, giving
- Outreach into the community
- Use of the building by community groups
- Intentional emphasis on the diversity of membership
Areas given the fewest #1 or #2 ratings were: evangelism in the community and social justice advocacy. (The parish currently supports with donations and volunteers two area ministries that involve poverty and hunger, and one institution for troubled youth.)
Comments about the Strengths of the Congregation (includes Envisioning Weekend) began with a general agreement that St. James’ is a welcoming congregation (76%). Respondents praised the church for:
- An obvious sense that the Spirit is present in worship
- The beauty of the plant, especially the worship area. The parish hall has been remodeled and the kitchen has been given a complete facelift, complete with new appliances.
- People who care for one another, who visit and check up on each other.
- Focus on Jesus in the worship and among the clergy, past, and present.
- Traditional worship and music
- Parishioners who “rise to the occasion,” in times of stress, and are able to make changes when the need is perceived. Cited were the recent renovations paid for by extra donations and the new nametags that make the church more visitor-friendly. Cited also was the resiliency of the congregation in the face of grief and loss.
- The ability of the congregation to make changes includes new practices in worship (such as the blessing of the backpacks and pledge cards, and differences in altar practices); diligent revision of by-laws, policies, website, and liturgical customary; people willing to try new parish ministries.
- Generous hospitality to visitors and members and “great coffee hours.”
- Biblical preaching and Fr. Frank’s superb Bible studies (along with Fr. Frank himself!)
- Outreach into the community as a parish and as individuals, including El Caldito Soup Kitchen; Gospel Rescue Mission; J. Paul Taylor Detention Center; Mesilla Valley Hospice
- Ample opportunities for adult Christian education, which the church is in the process of expanding since the Envisioning Weekend. Current priest-in-charge observes a people “hungry for the word of God” and for a deeper spirituality, engaged and receptive to preaching.
- A rich history in the Mesilla Valley. Many parishioners have been baptized or married here.
Some Perceived Needs for Improvement included: (See Goals below)
- A significant number of respondents who felt we can “do better” about serving the needs of others (33 people or 61%))
- Better outreach to students at NMSU and Dona Ana Branch Community College
- Need to reach out to younger families and improve the Sunday school program. Concerns about the “graying” of the congregation. (Presently, the church has increased the number of Sunday school teachers to 5, who rotate in and out, and has a consistent class of 3-4 students with as many as 9 on occasion.)
- Need for overall growth and better follow-up to help new members feel at home. (Priest-in-Charge contacts all visitors, which gets people in the door, but more is needed afterward.) The diocesan team gave us teaching on Visitor Welcome at the Envisioning Weekend.
- More participants from the congregation in service at the altar.
- The observation that the standard 10-30% of the people do all the work, but that those who do are dependable.
- The desire for more Daughters of the King, for more help with the library, and more intentional ministry among the men, such as a men’s group or Brotherhood of St. Andrew.
- Many felt that the church would benefit from greater racial diversity in the congregation.
- While a number of improvements to the plant have already been implemented, two other areas were mentioned frequently: the need for a sound system in the church and a desire to see the parking lots paved.
WHAT ST. JAMES’ WANTS IN A NEW RECTOR (based on the survey)
Of the respondents who filled out this section of the survey, 7 persons felt that a male priest would be best for the congregation; 3 expressed the desire for a female; 43 persons had no gender preference. On family situation, 41 respondents (76%) stated that neither age nor married status was as important as qualifications. A total of 11 expressed a preference for a married priest.
Those areas given the most Very Important (#1) ratings were:
- An engaging and effective preacher of the gospel (the highest amount of #1 ratings)
- Welcoming to all, regardless of race or sexual identity
- Good at developing and communicating a vision
- Empathetic, approachable, a good listener
- A good pastor makes regular visits to sick and shut-ins
- Good with seniors, values our older members
- Traditional in theology, affirming the creeds
- Good with youth and children prioritizes Sunday school
Strong Support (many #2 ratings, as well as #1) was shown for:
- Forms meaningful relationships with parish members
- Outreach into the community
- A good administrator or manager
- A good discipleship leader, able to train and lead others to present Jesus Christ
- Emphasizes stewardship in preaching and practice
Areas given the fewest #1 and #2 ratings:
- Willing to do same-sex marriages
- Bi-lingual in Spanish
- More liberal or “progressive” in theology
- Ecumenical leader
Summary from one respondent: “Rector should combine holiness with interest in people . . . should be able to moderate between people in disagreement. Rector’s preaching should be intelligent and engaging . . . Rector should be able to encourage [religious practice] in others.”
CONGREGATION GOALS FOR ST. JAMES’ (see Perceived Needs above)
Based on survey responses and Envisioning Weekend
- The growth of the congregation and the Average Sunday Attendance, with greater emphasis given to attracting younger families and to improving the Sunday school program
- Greater opportunities for spiritual growth. There are currently several Bible studies and at least one or two additional books a year are studied in adult education forums. Greater variety of subject matter (such as a study on spiritual gifts) was stated frequently as a goal.
- More robust stewardship education, and a goal of maintaining finances that are consistently “in the black.”
- More social events for members and parish-wide events was frequently mentioned. This is a direct result of a concern that the two Sunday services do not get people together frequently enough, resulting in a “divide” in the congregation.
- Expansion of the healing ministry beyond the excellent prayer ministry of the Daughters of the King (with great appreciation for their work!)
- Greater outreach to the colleges in our community
- Continued expansion of our music program
- Wider participation by parishioners in all activities and ministries
Envisioning Weekend, led by a diocesan team December 7-9, 2018 came up with several specific, implementable goals for the next several months. Included in these were:
- Fellowship: the formation of a “Food, Fun and Fellowship” group (not a committee!) for the implementation of the goal mentioned above of more social events and parish-wide fellowship to bring people together. Immediate implementation.
- Worship: the taking of a survey at both services on January 13, 2019, to see if people would favor going to one service on a permanent or more occasional basis. The information will be given to the new rector, but no action will be taken for a permanent change under the current priest-in-charge.
- Evangelism and Outreach: the possibility of a booth at the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Las Cruces. The making of zip-lock emergency kits for the homeless who come by the church, and for members to put in their cars (by June 2019).
- Christian education: the formation of 3 Bible studies/discipleship groups (2 in homes), beginning in January 2019 which would function during seasons other than Advent and Lent. These fellowship and study groups would include neighbors and friends who are not members.
- Continue outreach at the J. Paul Taylor (Juvenile) Detention Center; El Caldito Soup Kitchen lunches 4 times a year; Gospel Rescue Mission collections
- Find funding to improve the library with new paint, blinds, new table, and other upgrades.