By Linda C. Hoops
For the first time, the 6,162 congregations in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod will be reporting their membership totals, official acts, and other statistical information for 2012 to the Office of Rosters and Statistics online.
Letters were sent out to the congregations explaining the new system and giving a link to a website for entering the statistics. After a congregation number and password are entered at the site, an online survey style form opens where church staff may enter the requested information for the previous year.
Before this year, paper forms were mailed out from the Rosters and Statistics office and then mailed back when completed.
Congregations in the Southeastern District first tested the new online form last year, with 85 percent of those congregations reporting their statistics. The feedback from the district was very positive, said Scott Kostencki, manager of Rosters and Statistics.
According to the letter mailed Jan. 14 to congregations, the new system has benefits over the paper version that include a printable worksheet, a “save and finish later” option, a printable completed copy for church records, and quicker updates to church data on the LCMS congregation locator website.
The online form contains fewer data items to complete but asks additional membership demographic questions regarding the average age of congregation members.
The deadline for submitting the 2012 statistics is Feb. 28. When the information is received, it will be stored in a file where various data integrity checks will be performed, said Kostencki. The file will be loaded into the Rosters and Statistics’ database. Once data entry has been closed, Rosters and Statistics will send files to the LCMS District offices for their records. No printed copies will be maintained.
So far, there have been few problems with the online format, said Diane Grimm of the LCMS Church Information Center. “The questions we’ve received have to do with the link to the page,” she said. “Some are pasting it in their search engine (such as Google) and not in the browser line. Some folks are not able to open the form, so we suggest closing down and opening a new or different browser window.”
Kostencki said there should be few problems with the system, since the survey format is compatible with current web browsers. However, congregations may still request a paper version of the form by calling 314-996-1366 or sending an email to email@example.com and providing the congregation name, city and state. Processing requests for paper forms may take up to two weeks.
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lakeside Lutheran Church, Venice, Fla.
Posted Feb. 8, 2013