Blog Entries

A New Tool – The District Survey


With over 800 million Han Chinese in China (and over 1.2 billion in China as a whole, including minorities), it's one thing for a church or mission group to "adopt" or "engage" the Han – and another to figure out what that means. This is the situation of many groups in the world that are huge in size. "Who to adopt" can be addressed by websites like the Joshua Project. But "where to go" requires a different approach.

I have been working on this approach, developing what I have been loosely calling the "District Survey" or "Places of the World" database. While not abandoning the idea of reaching unreached peoples, I want to see the intersection of peoples and places so that we insure comprehensive coverage of very large people groups. Engaging the Han in Beijing, for example, does nothing for the Han in, say, Fujian province.

The Survey is intended to be comprehensiveeventually. But rather than wait until the project is completely done, I am taking a different tack and releasing a "current edition" every month. Right now, the Survey covers Asia. Eventually Africa will be added. Right now, there are many "holes" in the data, but some places are well covered and we are "filling in the gaps" all the time. (At the moment, Iran, Turkey, China, and Indonesia are fairly well done; this month we are working on Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos).

As its name implies, the Survey breaks down the region into countries, then into provinces, then into districts, and finally (if warranted) into subdistricts. The goal is to get down to population segments that are about 100,000 in size. We feel that this kind of population target is appropriate for any given strategy team (especially those using a methodology based on church planting movements).

For each population segment, I'm working on collecting the name, total size (e.g. square kilometers), population size in 2000 and 2010, presence of the church, presence of specific people groups, and descriptive notes. More information will be added later (I'm thinking, for example, about things like international airport links). For now, it seems like this would be enough to use the list strategically.

How might it be used? Well, the most obvious first use is to identify places to send teams, based on where the church is not. You could use the list based on where you are now to identify places nearby to go. Another use is to help people new to a particular region to understand its scale and scope better – just reading through the 20 pages devoted to China's provinces and districts gives you a better idea of the remaining task.

The Survey is available for $10 at We are also seeking sponsors; based on sponsorships of $100/year, we give away a certain number of free copies on a first-come first-served basis every month (the latest is available via If you'd like to help with this, please email me at or visit to give toward our 2014 budget.