Gallup Survey

Gallup Engagement Survey 2013

The Gallup Survey - Part 1 The History

Last June, we had the opportunity to join with five other parishes in the diocese to participate in the Gallup
Membership Engagement Survey. Why would we do this? Because of two hopes – first, to have greater insight into accomplishing what God has in mind for us; second, to help all of us deepen the use of our gifts and talents for the sake of God’s people.
Realizing that many were still struggling with the effects of Sandy, the Pastoral Council believed it would be
beneficial for us to participate. In September the survey was in the bulletin and was a link in our website. Then
in October, at Masses over two weekends, we took part in the Gallup Membership Engagement Survey. Fr. Donald wrote about this several times in his Thoughts, but it might be good to refresh our memories.

Periodically we schedule a doctor’s appointment for a check-up or physical, usually preceded by a prescription for blood work. Results of blood tests give the doctor a fount of information – white and red cell counts, cholesterol levels, proteins, etc. With this information the doctor is better equipped to have a more complete picture of our physical well-being.

What’s true about blood and blood tests is also true about churches. By looking around a church or even by
participating regularly, it’s not possible to have a full picture of our parish’s spiritual health or
congregational commitment. Just like the person that looks healthy may have skyrocketing cholesterol, there’s more than meets the eye in regard to how spiritually healthy and engaged we are in the life of St. Ignatius Martyr
parish. It’s more than a question of attendance numbers.

Some pastors have described the Gallup Membership Engagement Survey as a “spiritual blood test.” It’s a tool that can provide insight into our parish’s spiritual health and engagement. You remember that there were 25 statements – 9 statements about individual spiritual commitment (a person’s attitudes and activities that help toward spiritual health), 12 statements about member engagement (attitudes and actions that connect a person to other believers within the Body of Christ), and additional statements related to serving, giving, inviting and life
Our 610 surveys were submitted to the Gallup Organization. In November Fr. Donald and several Pastoral Council members attended a meeting at Our Lady of Grace in Babylon along with pastors and members of the other five parishes. Al Winseman from Gallup led the meeting to assist all in understanding the information from the survey and to offer suggestions as to how this would be helpful in planning for the future.

The Gallup Survey - Part 2 - Comments on Results 

What are some of the things we learned from the "spiritual blood test" we took last October? Keep in mind, this is what 610 of us said about ourselves when we took the survey. There were 25 statements. To each one we responded on a scale from 1-5 - from "strongly disagree" (1) to "strongly agree" (5), or we could choose "don’t know/does not apply" (6).

From the 25 statements, this week we’re looking at the 9 statements which relate to individual spiritual commitment (a person’s attitudes and activities that help toward spiritual health). The 9 statements include four attitudes (#2, 4, 7, 9) and five behaviors (#1,3,5,6,8). Below are the 9 statements, followed by the percentage of us who chose "5 strongly agree." The full report gave the percentages for each part of the scale from 1 to 5.

Spiritual Commitment Items

Gallup Membership Engagement Survey

Percentage of us who chose "5 strongly agree"

1 - I spend time in worship or prayer every day.


2 My faith is involved in every aspect of my life.


3 - Because of my faith, I have forgiven people who have hurt me deeply.


4 - Because of my faith, I have meaning and purpose in my life.


5 - My faith has called me to develop my given strengths.


6 - I will take unpopular stands to defend my faith.


7 - My faith gives me an inner peace.


8 - I speak words of kindness to those in need of encouragement.


9 - I am a person who is spiritually committed.


When the Gallup Organization provided our report, we not only saw our results, but also the percentages for all the Catholic parishes who took the survey, as well as all the churches/organizations who participated. We are very much in line with both of these groups.

What can we learn about ‘spiritual commitment’? Al Winseman in Growing an Engaged Church writes, "Spiritual commitment reflects a personal depth of spirituality. It is individual in nature and is seen in both behaviors and attitudes… George Gallup in the early 1990’s first used the phrase to describe a spirituality that went beyond merely an inwardly focused, ‘feel good’ faith to one that made a difference in daily living (pg. 51) …. Believing all the right things doesn’t automatically mean a person is spiritually committed. In order to be spiritually committed, you have to go beyond mere belief." (pg. 59)

Read the 9 statements and their percentages again. How can we see them and understand them in relation to one another? What can we learn from them?

The Gallup Survey - Part 3 -The Parish Blood Test

What are some additional insights we can learn from the “spiritual blood test” we took last October? Keep in mind, this is what we said about ourselves when we took the survey. To each of the 25 statements we responded on a scale from 1-5  - from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (5), or we could choose “don’t know/does not apply” (6).

From the 25 statements, last week we looked at the 9 statements which relate to individual spiritual commitment - a person’s attitudes and activities that help toward spiritual health.

12 more statements relate to what the Gallup Organization calls “member engagement” - attitudes and actions that connect a person to other believers within the Body of Christ. You can see the distinction, the movement from the individual outward, from one’s own spiritual growth to participation in the larger Body of Christ.

Over the years in administering this survey, the Gallup Organization has found these two concepts – spiritual commitment and member engagement – to be crucial to the life of a parish. This probably comes as no surprise to you, sort of a no-brainer. By taking this survey here at St. Ignatius Martyr, our responses put some “data” to these two realities for us. But first, a little more about member engagement.

Al Winseman, Gallup’s Practice Leader for Faith-Based Organizations, writes in Growing an Engaged Church, “Engaged members drive the spiritual health of every congregation in America. The more engaged members there are in your church, the healthier it is. Engaged members use the language of ‘family’ when they talk about their churches.

They want to know they are valued and that they make a meaningful contribution to the mission of their church – not in terms of dollars and cents, but in contributing their greatest talents to accomplish something bigger than themselves. These members are loyal and have strong psychological and emotional connections to their parish.” (p. 67)

Does this sound like you? Or someone you know? Engagement drives a congregation’s spiritual health. Later in his book Winseman states that the Gallup surveys overall indicate that 29% of the members in most US congregations are engaged. Results from our survey state that 30% of our parishioners are “engaged.”

How is our “spiritual blood test”? How are we invited to grow? More next week as we live in the season of Lent.

The Gallup Survey - Part 4 - "On the Waterfront" and the Survey 

I imagine this seems like a strange combination, but there are connections here. This is the First Week of Lent 2014. This is the fourth bulletin piece on the Gallup Membership Engagement Survey we took in October. And this week and next week the movie “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando and Karl Malden will be shown in the Msgr. Cass Center as a Lenten film.

Do you remember the story line of “On the Waterfront”? Organized crime has penetrated the longshoreman's union in New York during the 1950s. Terry Malloy is a former prizefighter and serves as a petty errand boy for the union head, Johnny Friendly. As the film proceeds, several men break the community's code of silence to stand up to the racketeers and expose the murder of a friend, but not before there’s a lot of soul-searching and facing up to the challenges of conscience.

How is this related to the Gallup survey, our parish’s “spiritual blood test”? Two weeks ago we looked at the 9 statements which relate to individual spiritual commitment (a person’s attitudes and behaviors that help toward spiritual health). 45% of us “strongly agreed” with the statement, “I will take unpopular stands to defend my faith.” In the movie Terry Malloy stood up to injustices around him, but it was really difficult, took him time to sort it out and demanded a lot from him. What or whom is it we have been called to stand up for, to defend? What values do we hold as Christians? Has this taken a toll? Perhaps this is something to think about this Lent. And at the same time, whether here at church, on Netflix, or some other way, think about watching “On the Waterfront” as a Lenten practice this year.

Sr. Diane Morgan, OP

Pastoral Associate