Submitted by Annemarie Hindman, Norval Reece and Brad Sheeks
Membership has increased 62% in Newtown Monthly Meeting (NMM) since 1996. From December 31, 1996 to December 31, 2019, there was a net gain in members of 130, from 210 to 340. This is an average of about 2.5% or 5-6 people per year. Membership as of December 31, 2019, was 291 adult members and 49 members under age 21.
As an all-volunteer Meeting, several surveys have been conducted during this period of growth in order to learn more about the NMM community, ascertain what is being done well, and solicit ideas for improvement regarding: Meeting for Worship, First Day Classes, community service, social events, and welcoming and integrating new people into the Meeting.
In October 2019, NMM conducted online the most recent survey of our members and attenders with 89 respondents. This survey followed earlier surveys in 2001 by PYM of 10 local meetings, including NMM, and one in 2010 conducted by NMM. This report shares findings from our newest survey as well as some references to previous data in order to facilitate comparisons.
These current data indicate the following regarding NMM:
- new Friends are drawn at a variety of points in the lifespan, but particularly in midlife and beyond (and that this pattern has been relatively stable over time);
- most members and attenders were first brought to NMM by family (30%) or friends (26%) and (40%) heard about the Meeting through Friends schools or other organizations;
- occupations currently or before retirement, were almost equally balanced between nonprofits, including universities (41%), and business/self-employment (39%);
- among current attenders, 75% reported that they had been invited to join NMM, while 25% had not and that the membership process was very (50%) or somewhat (50%) clear (compared to earlier surveys, this suggests that changes made to improve the process of inviting people to become members and being clear about how to apply has become increasingly transparent};
- of 11 items listed that respondents were asked to value among the “most important reasons for attending Meeting regularly,” Meeting for Worship was highly valued by 85%, “a loving, caring community” by 82%, and openness to multiple beliefs, the Peace Testimony, and other social Testimonies by 60-75%;
- NMM was perceived to be welcoming to visitors (96%), have a satisfying MfW (92%), be a loving, caring community (97%), and have a good Adult Religious Education (92% strongly agreed or agreed). In contrast, only 20% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that NMM was free from dissention or power struggles.
- overall satisfaction with NMM was 95% (58% very satisfied and 37% satisfied).
Taken together, findings from the most recent NMM survey offer a snapshot of the demographics, organizational dynamics, and spiritual perspectives of members and attenders. The relatively strong response rate suggests that results are generally representative of the experiences of much of the NMM community. Members and attenders are drawn to NMM in large part because they perceive the Meeting for Worship to offer a valuable spiritual experience, and because they value the sense of community. In the past decade, NMM has been successful in our goal of helping interested attenders become members. The coming decade may offer opportunities to consider questions that arose from the survey, including the challenges and opportunities attendant to conflict within the Meeting. Overall, satisfaction with NMM among respondents is high.
The questionnaire utilized for the survey and/or the complete summary results are available upon request from Brad Sheeks, Clerk NMM Inreach/Outreach Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org