Results of the 2017 JEMA communications survey

In February and March 2017, JEMA’s Communications Commission conducted a survey to assess the JEMA community’s current communication and publication interests. It paralleled the one we conducted from February to May 2012, as we wanted to compare how the interests and concerns of the JEMA community may have changed over the past five years.

We announced the survey to JEMA members via several email announcements, the Winter 2017 Japan Harvest print magazine, and announcements at the 2017 JEMA Connect meeting in February and the JEMA Women in Ministry (WIM) Kanto retreat in March.

Members were given three submission options: complete the survey online, email it, or fax it. This time all submissions came in via the online survey. We received 122 responses—a little lower than the 150 responses we got in the 2012 survey. (For reference, there were 967 JEMA members in 2012 and 985 in 2016.)

The 2017 survey included a lower percentage of female respondents than the 2012 survey. The 2017 survey included 65 male (53%) and 52 female (43%) respondents (five respondents did not specify their gender), whereas the 2012 survey included 70 male (46%) and 80 female (53%) respondents. Of the 2012 survey respondents, 65% were married as compared to 83% of the 2017 respondents. Interestingly, the percentages of respondents who had been in Japan less than five years were almost identical in 2012 (17%) and 2017 (15%).

Both surveys had seven main questions. Some of the wordings and content categories were changed in the 2017 survey, but the questions were essentially the same. Questions one through three majored on the content of Japan Harvest magazine, whereas questions four through seven majored on internet-related topics.

Questions and answers

Q1: How interesting do you find each of the following Japan Harvest regular articles?

Respondents were asked to rate the regular articles on a five-level scale from “Very” (5) to “Not at all” (1). All scored a #5 or #4 by more than half of the respondents (although in the cases of Focus on Prayer and Modern Tech, just barely). Language & Culture was a clear leader with 75% of respondents giving it a #4 or #5. Member Care rated 67% and In the News 66%.

Q2: How interested are you in the following topics?

As in the 2012 survey, evangelism came out on top (84% rated it a #4 or #5). Missionaries’ experiences got the same percentage but a lower #5 percentage.

Q3: List up to three topics you would like to see Japan Harvest address.

Out of the long list of suggestions we received, there was especially strong interest in areas related to church, contextualization, evangelism, member care, and partnership or cooperation. We cover the responses to this question in greater detail in the second half of this article.

Q4: Tell us which other print and online Christian publications you find interesting or useful.

The US-based Christianity Today magazine and online website received 49 mentions, with Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) second at 31. Next came World (20 mentions), Mission Frontiers (15 mentions), and Thrive Connection (14 mentions). Gospel Coalition received 3 mentions, Desiring God and Sojourners magazine 2 each, and another 15 print or online publications received individual mentions.

Q5: Tell us how interested you are in online access to: current Japan Harvest magazine articles, current disaster needs and reports, language study resources, Japan Christian news, and JEMA mission news.

Comparing the responses of all 122 respondents to those of the 26–40 age group provides some interesting data. (Note: all percentages in the next paragraph are the sum of the #5 and #4 percentages.)

Sixty-one percent of all respondents and 60% of those aged 26–40 gave a response of #5 or #4 for their interest in viewing Japan Harvest articles online. However, with disaster needs, the percentages were 59% (all respondents) and 48% (26–40 year olds). Interest in language study resources was higher in the younger group (64%) than in the entire survey (56%). Japan Christian news came in with 68% for all respondents and 60% for the 26–40 bracket. JEMA mission news interest was 54% for the whole group, but only 40% with the younger group.

Q6: How often do you access the internet for the following activities: read the news, research/information, and social networking?

To read the news increased from 49% in 2012 to 60% in 2017. Research/information also increased, from 46% to 52%. However, social networking remained relatively unchanged, from 55% in 2012 to 57% in 2017.

Q7: Which devices do you use regularly to access the internet?

Not surprisingly, computers are still the primary access devices—93% of respondents indicated they regularly use a computer to access the internet. But now our members increasingly use mobile devices, as shown on the graph below. Only 21% reported that the computer is their exclusive internet-access device, whereas in 2012 that percentage was more than 50%.

Suggestions for topics to cover

Question three asked respondents to submit up to three topics they would like more coverage of in Japan Harvest. Out of the 122 respondents, just over half (63) submitted topics of interest. Over 100 separate items were submitted. After extensive processing of the data, we settled on 15 categories into which we grouped the responses. In alphabetical order, these are: case studies, church, contextualization, cultural understanding, discipleship, evangelism, history, language learning, member care, news, partnership or cooperation, prayer, recruitment, resources, and stories.

Case  studies

This area overlapped with many other categories, but specifically mentioned in this context was:

  • studies of “cutting edge” Japanese churches and ministries, and
  • leaders, both those involved in church planting and those with a vision for missions outreach.

Church

These topics included:

  • help for counseling Japanese people with challenging problems,
  • holistic church ministry that extends outside the walls of the church building,
  • difficult social issues, e.g. abortion and the church’s relationship to Japanese politics and social change,
  • integration of Japanese returnees into the church,
  • the aging of Japanese pastors,
  • ministry to the elderly,
  • how to deal with traditional Japanese religious rituals (funerals, ancestor worship, and folk religion),
  • revival, and
  • small or rural churches.

Church planting was mentioned numerous times:

  • planting models and church reproduction.

Contextualization

Contextualization was mentioned many times from different angles. These included:

  • analysis of the Japanese worldview; cultural and linguistic insights for missionaries [so that the message of the gospel is communicated with cultural sensitivity],
  • deeper focus on Japanese culture, theology, religions, and the process by which Japanese come to Christ,
  • how to communicate various biblical concepts to Japanese people,
  • creative ways to contextualize the gospel, and
  • worship and worship music from a Japanese perspective.

Cultural understanding

Topics suggested included:

  • ongoing updates about changes in the church and society,
  • how to make and keep friendships with Japanese people,
  • shame and honor issues in Japanese culture, and
  • relations between Chinese/Koreans and Japanese people.

Discipleship

Discipleship was mentioned several times. Two questioned whether accountability groups—especially in the area of sexual purity—exist for Japanese people. One respondent reflected that there seems to be a lack of training as to what sacrifice really means.

Evangelism

Suggested topics included:

  • spiritual warfare as it relates to Japan,
  • various evangelism focuses were suggested, including children, youth, cities, cults, men, and unchurched regions,
  • creative evangelism approaches:
    • the arts (painting, dance, music, and writing),
    • Christian cafés,
    • business as mission,
  • ministries that fall outside normal mission channels,
  • opportunities, challenges, and trends for outreach at a big-picture level, and
  • theological and pragmatic issues.

History

Several areas were suggested:

  • Christian history in Japan,
  • mission agency history in Japan,
  • the work of schools founded by Christians with statistics on the long-term impact of these institutions, and
  • histories of Japanese figures relevant to Christianity.

Language learning

Requests for:

  • resources for all levels of learners, and
  • a list of suggested Japanese language schools.

Member care

A wide range of topics were suggested.

Self-care and accountability:

  • time management,
  • burnout,
  • support networks,
  • renewal,
  • self-motivation,
  • spiritual formation, and
  • member care issues unique to Japan.

Practical areas:

  • living economically,
  • writing better newsletters, and
  • coaching in various practical areas.

We also had a request for articles that acknowledge the increasing number of missionary kids who have one Japanese and one non-Japanese parent, often go through the Japan educational system, and don’t really identify as third-culture kids.

News

Specifically mentioned were requests for a calendar of upcoming conferences and seminars in the Christian community. Appreciation was also expressed for news articles translated from Japanese.

Partnership or cooperation

In 2012, networking was a significant topic, but in 2017, partnership and cooperation seemed to take its place. This included partnership or cooperation between missions and Japanese denominations at the organizational level as well as between individuals coming from different cultural perspectives.

Prayer

Clear testimonies of answered prayer in Japan were mentioned as possible article topics. One person suggested a series on how to pray for Japan.

Mobilization

Topics suggested included:

  • mobilization of future missionaries by missionaries working in the field,
  • mobilizing Japanese laity, and
  • short-term missions.

Resources

We already publish reviews of books in English of interest to missionaries in Japan, but it was suggested we also publish:

  • reviews in English of books only available in Japanese that would be useful for our JEMA community, and
  • provide information about newly published books and tracts.

Stories

Various topics were suggested:

  • testimonies by missionaries in both “frontline” and “support” ministries,
  • testimonies by Japanese Christians, and
  • stories of missionaries who changed their perspectives toward particular issues or experienced significant paradigm shifts.

In conclusion

Thanks to all who responded. We haven’t been able to cover everything mentioned, but be assured we have read every response and have your thoughts in mind as we seek to improve the JEMA Communications Commission.

If any of the topics listed in this report are about an area you can write about, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your proposal through “Leave a Reply” toward the bottom of this page.

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