What Does the Recent Survey tell us about Vineyard Columbus?
Every two years, since 2002, Vineyard Columbus has done a survey of every adult who is present at one of our services on a weekend in the spring. What does our 2018 survey tell us about Vineyard Columbus at this time in our history?
1. We are a very diverse church. Even in 2018, there are simply not that many multiracial, multiethnic churches, particularly churches that number over 1,000 in attendance. Indeed, I am aware of only a few other large multiethnic churches in Central Ohio defined by having at least 20% of the congregation being non-majority. Vineyard Columbus has gone through massive change in the past 16 years. In 2002, white Anglos constituted 89% of our church. Now, white Anglos make up 57% of our adult population. 22% of our church is African-American, which is very similar to Franklin County (21.2%). 5.5% of Vineyard Columbus is African. 4.2% is Asian/Pacific Islander and nearly 6% of our church is Hispanic. Our Asian and Hispanic percentages are also similar to Franklin County.
2. We are a highly educated church. 54% of our church has at least a college degree. Another 28% of our church has done post-graduate work or received a post-graduate degree. Vineyard Columbus has nearly double the percentage of college grads as does Franklin County. But we also have a growing percentage of people, albeit small (5%) who have not graduated high school. We are becoming slightly more educationally diverse.
3. Attenders at Vineyard Columbus tend to be wealthier than the average Franklin County resident. The median family income in Franklin County is $62,000. The median household income in Franklin County (which may simply be one person living by themselves) is $49,000. The median household income at Vineyard Columbus is close to $80,000.
4. We are a politically diverse church. 18% of our church consider themselves to be progressive or very progressive. 34% of our church consider themselves to be moderate or independent. 37% of our church consider themselves to be conservative or very conservative politically (11% didn’t answer the question). 51% of our church consider themselves to be pro-life or strongly pro-life. 15% of our church consider themselves to be neutral. 21% consider themselves to be pro-choice or strongly pro-choice (7% of the church didn’t answer the question). We obviously have a teaching responsibility to help our congregation to embrace a stronger pro-life ethic.
Regarding when sexual activity is considered appropriate, 72% of our church believe that sexual activity should be reserved only for heterosexual marriage. 4.5% of the church were neutral. 10% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that sexual activity should be reserved only for heterosexual marriage (5.5% of the church were unsure or unwilling to answer).
5. People continue to commit their lives to Christ here at Vineyard Columbus. Over the past 14 years, we’ve had a general trend upward regarding the percentage of adults at Vineyard Columbus who say they’ve committed or recommitted their lives to Christ here in our church. Over 41% of our attendees have committed their lives to Christ at our church.
6. A higher percentage of adults are connected to a small group here at Vineyard Columbus than at any time in the 21st century. Our small group campaigns and the emphasis we’re placing on small groups seem to be working. 57% of our adults are connected to a small group at our church. The percentage of attendees who are church members is also going up.
7. Vineyard Columbus has a significant number of Foreign-Born Attendees. We found that 16.6% of our attendees were born outside of the United States. That’s higher than Franklin County’s foreign-born percentage which is between 11-12%. We have attendees at Vineyard Columbus from over 125 different countries. This is one of the things that makes Vineyard Columbus so wonderful - the opportunity to fellowship with people from across the world. I believe that every church should be an outpost for the Kingdom of God in their communities reflecting the characteristics of the Kingdom in their local settings. One of the characteristics of the Kingdom of God is the breaking down of dividing walls between people. This is a great strength of Vineyard Columbus.
What are some areas of concern?
1. We have a lower percentage of men than our surrounding county. In Franklin County, 49% of the county is male. At Vineyard Columbus, only 41% of our attendees are men. One thing stands out when we correlate our gender data with our marriage data: if men divorce or don’t marry, they are much less likely to go to church than women. Among those divorced in our church, 79% of divorcees are women, but only 20% are men. Another way to put it is this: As a general rule at Vineyard Columbus and in churches across America, if men are not married they don’t go to church. This is a major issue for us in thinking about our evangelism and mission to our community.
A few years ago, I wrote this, “It is a great tragedy that men in America generally don’t participate in church unless they are married because every study confirms this fact: church is good for men! If a man is involved in church, they are much more likely to be engaged as husbands and fathers in their families. Church lifts people out of poverty. Church attendees have greater self-esteem, less depression and much higher satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the single most important predictor of personal stability and happiness.”
Somehow we need to more effectively communicate the benefits of church attendance and church involvement to single and divorced men.
2. Only half of Vineyard Columbus attendees volunteer or lead ministries in our church. 51% of Vineyard attendees do not serve at the church in a typical month. Somehow Vineyard Columbus has to figure out a way to better communicate the goodness of serving our brothers and sisters within the church community. It is clear that many people experience competing demands of children’s sports, longer work hours, etc. and no longer volunteer anywhere in America. But scripturally we are called to “serve one another” (Galatians 5:13), and not simply be consumers of church services.
3. We have experienced a long-term decline in the percentage of our church that is 18-30 with the end of the Joshua House ministry and our lack of investment in campus work. This next year, you’ll be hearing a lot more about Vineyard Columbus’ renewed commitment to reach people who are 18-30 years old. We’re also going to refocus attention on college campuses in the Central Ohio area. While there are many campus groups who work at our local universities, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). College is a key time when people make long-term decisions about life. And it’s a key time when people make long-term decisions for Christ. We want to encourage crucial long-term decisions for Christ while people are young.
4. Inviting outsiders is a declining practice at our church. 28% of Vineyard Columbus attendees invited no one to join them at church in the last year. An additional 43% invited only one to two people. That means that nearly three-fourths of our church invited two people or less over the course of an entire year to join them at church! Obviously, our church needs to become persuaded that invitation is part of a Christian’s job description. And our church needs to become better equipped regarding how to invite people to church.
Summary: As we look over the survey data, there are some very encouraging trends. Giving, fellowship, membership, engagement with small groups, and commitments to Christ are all rising at Vineyard Columbus. That’s great news! We need to keep going. At the same time, we have a huge amount of work to do in encouraging people to serve in the church and to invite people more regularly. And we need to be more intentional about reaching singles, unattached men, and young adults in our community.
Thanks for filling out our biennial survey!
Please join me in praying for the witness and growth of Vineyard Columbus over the next year.