Some churches still find Focus Groups helpful in identifying the ministry needs of the market place. Here is my take on Focus Groups.
The purpose of a focus group is to identify the attitudes, concerns, issues, hopes, dreams, and needs of the group of people you have brought together for the focus group. From this you explore what ministries your church might begin in response.
Identify who you wish to focus on. These groups are always in the community.
Focus on the top seven lifestyles with emphasis on the younger lifestyles.
Recruit people from the community in each of the lifestyles.
Ask the church people for names of people they know in the community who are like this.
Build on networks and relationships.
Some churches pay people to come and talk to them. This has been done for years by businesses such as Folger’s Coffee.
10 to 12 people in a group. Invite twice as many as you think you need unless you are doing G.I. generation.
The church is trying to listen to the needs of the people in the area in order to better provide ministry to the community.
A neutral site away from the church is best.
Put everyone in a circle with nothing blocking the view of anyone.
Audio tape the session with a multi-directional microphone. Do not try to take notes.
Insure them that names will never be used. Just the content.
1-½ hours are adequate.
Pastor cannot attend.
Never take a position on anything. Your goal is to listen and ask why? You are in neutral.
Listen between the lines.
Questions to ask depend on who you are listening to. The younger the audience the more questions you will need. Begin with a neutral question such as what’s it like to live in @@@ today? When you think of your life five years ago, how would you describe what is different now? What’s it like to be (insert the lifestyle)? Do not use the name, but make it more specific. “When you think about your parents at this stage in their lives and where you are today, how would you compare the two? When you think about your children when they reach your stage in life, what do you think they will encounter?” If they do not go to church, ask “Why would you say most people don’t go to church?” or “If the church could change one thing, what would you like it to be? What things do you find most helpful for your daily life? Least helpful?” “If you could model your life after someone, who would it be?” “Could you describe a time when your faith was significantly helpful to your life?”
Pursue and go down any new trails that the group opens up.
Do not be afraid of the silence. It may be the first time they have thought about this question.
At the end, ask them for any names of people they think it would be helpful for the church to hear. If so, “would you mind if we used your name as a reference?”
Provide light snacks to set people at ease.
From this point, determine what they have said and what ministries might respond to them. Then determine which of these ministries your church has the resources to respond to.
Then go back to the group and say, “Here is what we heard you say and how we think we might be able to respond to your needs with new ministries.”
Sample Focus Group Questions
What comes to mind when you say the word church?
What does it feel like to be a member of the CPA conference today?
Compare what it was like when you joined the conference today.
When you think of the year 2008, what will the conference be like?
What would you like to have the next bishop do to carry forward CGWI?
What will be the obstacles that could keep this from taking place?
What can be done to overcome these obstacles and how can it be done?
How To Do
Ask the people to number off and have three pre-determined numbers–observer, facilitator, and secretary.
Ask the observer to describe the group process.