New Study from EFC helps shape the future of mission in Canada
by John Hall
There is an exciting project underway that you should know about if you’re interested in mission. The project is called the Canadian Evangelical Missions Engagement Study (CEMES). The study is directed to pastors and lay people of evangelical churches in Canada. The long overdue study is designed to “help the local church, denominations and missions-sending agencies better understand how they can effectively engage in global missions and partner together to do the same.”
Jon Denbok from SIM, one of the spokespersons for the project, notes that other research has indicated that participation in global mission has been flat since the late 90’s. Understanding what has shifted in the Canadian church’s perception of mission may be the key to helping the church be effective in mission going forward. As a spokesperson for the study he is excited that the study can be offered as a gift to the church of Canada; and he’s really blessed to see mission agencies working together to serve the church.
Rick Hiemstra, the lead researcher from the EFC, was able to offer his insights into the Mission Engagement Study.
Where did the idea for a mission survey for churches across Canada come from?
Hiemstra: EFC has looked at a number of topics like the Hemorrhaging Faith study in the past and will continue to research topics relevant to the Evangelical church. To get the research started EFC usually partners with a pre-existing group who want to initiate the research study. In this case a number of CEO’s from mission agencies in the GTA were meeting for prayer, edification and discernment. This group approached EFC. For the purposes of the research they called themselves the Canadian Missions Research Forum and have included other ministries and denominational leaders as the process evolved.
What questions prompted the study?
Hiemstra: The study started with two thoughts. First, Missions is changing? Second, people’s understanding of mission is changing? This would imply that the response to mission is changing – making this data essential to healthy church growth and a healthy understanding of mission.
What is the understanding of mission changing from?
Hiemstra: There really isn’t a benchmark and that’s part of the problem that this study will resolve. We’ll be able to provide a benchmark based on hard data after this study is completed.
What’s involved in the study?
Hiemstra: The project is divided into four phases. The first phase was a literature review. The second phase was built on surveys with three primary constituent groups (denominational leaders, mission agency leaders, academics). The point of the interviews was to identify what issues and themes should be probed in the survey and their understanding of mission. The third phase, which we’re in now, was to develop two national surveys. One will be directed to lay people through Angus Reid. The second will be conducted through the EFC and target pastors.
What is the definition of mission that you are using for this survey?
Hiemstra: Part of the survey is to find out what working definitions are out there. People are working with different definitions and the different definitions create different practical responses to mission. This impacts priorities in ministry and budgeting for mission. The survey has been intentionally neutral.
What outcomes do you hope for?
Hiemstra: We plan to approach around 11000 evangelical congregations with the survey. A strong response rate will give us the best data. When the data is compiled there will be five or six ‘Think Tank’ events across the country where the research will be presented and churches will have the opportunity to discuss and respond to the data. The research doesn’t end with the data. It’s important to get responses from pastors so that through conversation best practices emerge and a robust approach to mission can be developed. Provoking a conversation is key.
This survey should be an important benchmark in the advancement of mission in Canada. Even with the study, revitalizing a strong mission orientation in the Canadian church will be a challenging process. Denbok points out that Canadian culture is fairly risk averse and that churches involved in mission need to instill in their communities a “reliance on Christ for the vision and provision.” At the end of the day Hiemstra notes, “Research often confirms what we already thought was happening. The data then provides the basis for ministry decisions that helps build momentum to overcome inertia.”
Missions Fest Vancouver would like to encourage churches throughout Metro Vancouver and the Valley to participate in this survey. More information can be found at:
The survey results will be presented on Saturday January 28, 2017 at the Missions Fest Vancouver conference in Canada Place. Missions Fest is an organization dedicated to supporting the local church in their efforts to become more missional.
Learn more at www.missionsfestvancouver.ca
John Hall is the Executive Director of MissionsFest Vancouver