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The real-time shift


Research Services adopts new survey approach to meet the denomination’s needs today

by Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Research Services department is embracing the need for real-time data to be gathered and reported, informing the policies and initiatives facing the church in these ever-changing times.

“We live in an immediate gratification culture,” said Susan Barnett, PhD, coordinator for Research Services. “The questions facing the church today are different than in years past, and for the church to respond in a timely manner, we are going all in on a digital approach to gathering and analyzing data.”

Two new surveys have been created — Person in the Pew and Church on the Corner.

Person in the Pew currently consists of approximately 1,700 people who have voiced their willingness to take three to four short surveys a year around topics that can inform and direct the church’s responses to societal and spiritual issues. The first of these surveys, addressing denominational communications, went out on May 1. The survey is open to anyone who wants to share their feedback and can be accessed here.

Church on the Corner is scheduled to go out four times a year and will take on the broader issues that affect church and community. “If we only look at people, we are missing a crucial part of the equation,” Barnett said. “We value the personal perspective, but also need the communities of God to contribute.”

The first Church on the Corner survey will address the mental health initiative approved at the 223rd General Assembly (2018).

These two surveys will replace the Presbyterian Panel, which has been a mailed questionnaire since 1973. The panel reports addressed such topics as environmental stewardship, peacemaking and end-of-life issues.

“The data gathered by the panel has been valuable for policy making and strategic measures in the past,” Barnett said. “But real-time data collected today will be more relevant to the church today.”

Anyone who would like to become part of the Person of the Pew survey can email

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