20 Ways Research Can Help Church Leaders Mobilize God’s People for Good Deeds

Within One Challenge, we view research as foundational to all effective ministry. We define research as gathering information to make good decisions that ultimately result in the mobilization of God's people. This article identifies 20 ways that research can be used to identify needs, create relevant ministries and mobilize God's people.


Research can help make community outreach more effective.

1. Read the local newspaper seeking to understanding the community. In the formal research world, this would be called "library research"

2. Familiarize yourself with the demographic data for your community. Governmental agencies do a good job at tracking social indicators related to ethnicity, employment, education, household structure, poverty, economic, crime and other demographics. This information, I have found, is often "eye opening" and challenges our conceptions about a community.

3. Use a community survey to identify problems and needs. This involves creating a survey and going door-to-to to ask residents about their perceptions of community needs.

4. Interview community leaders and other ministry leaders from other churches or Christian organizations to discover their perspective on community needs.

5. Use participant observation. Involve your self in the community and discover it from the inside.

6. Regularly take a prayer walk through your community to gain “insight on site”.

7. Network. Discover what governmental and non-governmental programs/resources are in your community to address needs. Then plug people into already existing ministry into the community or launch new ministry initiatives. Consider directing believing volunteers to effective programs run by non-profit agencies to add “salt and light” to these programs.


Research can help make church ministry more fruitful.

8. Find out the pressing needs and problems of those who attend church. You can start informally by building relationships with people and visiting them in their homes.

9. You can also use more formal research methods such as interviews, focus groups, or surveys to probe deeper. Focus groups held with those in leadership or single mothers or widows or retirees or youth could lead to important discoveries about the particular needs of each group Then shape ministries as well as teaching and preaching times to address these needs.

10. Consider the broader issue of Church Health. There are several good survey tools available to evaluate congregational "health" and to then create a plan to develop more effective ministry, which in essence, promotes good works. Denominations sometimes have consultants who can assist congregations in the church development process.


Research can help make training courses better.

11. If you want your teaching to be relevant, first identify the pressing needs and problems faced by your students. It is sometimes helpful at the beginning of a course to ask students why they are there and what they hope to learn.

12. Identify the life challenges and opportunities of each age group. Keep in mind that as people age, they face different life challenges that require specific instructions. The life challenges of a twenty-something single adult are different than a young couple starting a family. Those parenting teenagers face different challenges than those parenting pre-schoolers. And those entering retirement have a whole new set of opportunities opening to them for volunteer service. A wise teacher/trainer will keep the needs of those taught in mind and have clear objectives for promoting good deeds in each season of life.

13. When training leaders or Christian workers, have in mind what knowledge and skills are needed to fulfill the particular ministry at hand, as well as what skills and understanding people already have. It would be useful to use a "Christian Worker Skill Inventory" to measure people's development. With this information, it is possible to develop appropriate training to take people from where they are to where they need to be.

14. Use a course evaluation. The feedback you receive will make you a better teacher/trainer.


Research can help make conferences better.

15. Identify the participants' needs, then shape plenary and workshop sessions to address these needs. With technology available today, it is relatively simple to use a pre-conference survey to identify needs and potential contributions of those registered to attend, With this information in mind, shape the conference agenda and activities to include the contribution of the participants and address significant needs.

16. Also it is very helpful at the end of the conference to use an evaluation tool to ask participants about accommodations, food, the schedule, workshops, plenary sessions, etc. Feedback received is very helpful to the conference organizers in making future conferences more beneficial to the participants.

17. Conference organizers can also use these for questions to evaluate the conference, based upon their observations. (Technically, we would call this a focus group.) The key words form the acrostic, K.I.S.S.

    Keep - What elements of this conference do we want to keep? What worked well?
    Improve - What elements of this conference do we want to improve? What can we do better at?
    Start - What new elements might we want to start in the future that would increase the effectiveness of the conference?
    Stop - What do we want to stop from happening in the future that detracts from the effectiveness of the conference?


Research can help identify potential places of ministry in a country.

18. Christians. Tables and maps can show the percentage of Christians and Evangelical Christians by region, state, county and locality. Those with fewer Christians or Evangelicals would be potential places of ministry.

19. Churches. A church census will show the number of churches per region, state, county and locality. Calculating the Population to Church ratio shows the areas that have fewer churches per thousand population. Areas with fewer churches would be places for church planting initiatives. A Church census may turn up locations without any churches. These would be high priority places for evangelists and church planters to target.

20. People Group.. Identify the people groups in a region and the number of Christians. The Joshua Project defines a least reached people group at lless than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Professing Christians. It is possible that a researcher will identify people groups nearby that are unreached. Sometimes the majority population is unreached, while several minority groups are reached. Other times the majority group will be reached, but there will be minority groups that are unreached. In either case, reached people groups can be mobilized to engage in cross cultural near neighbor evangelism.


Within One Challenge we say that ministry research is carried out in order to gather information that will be used to make decisions. In this article we've focused our attention on how good information is needed to first identify needs within our community,our church, our courses, our conferences and our country so that God's people can be mobilized to engage in good deeds. Several research techniques and tools have been briefly mentioned. If you would like to know more about how to use any of these research tools in your context, send us a note. A member of the Global Research Team will be glad to assist you..