Original Research

The use of the Delphi survey as a research tool in understanding church trends

Robert L. Elkington, George Lotter
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 34, No 1 | a717 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v34i1.717 | © 2013 Robert L. Elkington, George Lotter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 January 2012 | Published: 27 May 2013

About the author(s)

Robert L. Elkington, Department of Practical Theology, North-West University, South Africa
George Lotter, Department of Practical Theology, North-West University, South Africa


In the practical theological research process, as in most disciplines, extant literature is vital in assisting a researcher to formulate a foundational understanding of the topic under review. A literature review is also valuable in understanding the meta-theoretical aspects of the research topic. What does a researcher do, though, if there is little current literature on the topic under scrutiny? If there is a small corpus of literature around a subject, the Delphi method can serve as an extremely helpful research tool. This article discussed the use of the Delphi survey in a practical theological research endeavour and surveyed its history from inception to current usage. The article also reviewed the various types of Delphi survey and supported the use of the Lockean Delphi survey in this particular example of practical theological research. The article finished with an actual Delphi survey of Canadian Evangelical church pastors as an example of how the Delphi method can be used as a research tool in practical theology. The article concluded that the Delphi survey is an extremely useful research tool across the wide domain of social science research.


Delphi Survey; Church Trends; Evangelical; Church; Canada


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