For fairly obvious reasons it is necessary for a national government to know how many people it is serving and the demographic details concerning those people. Those who plan schools, roads, water reticulation and power supply systems, healthcare, welfare, and a dozen other factors, need to know how many people there are and into which age categories and regions they are divided. Our social leaders need to be in a position to extrapolate from reliable data what our national strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are, socially and statistically.
For this reason, much planning has been done, tax-money spent and people recruited to go door to door and fill in a census form for every household, urban and rural, throughout the length and breadth of our country. You have probably noticed the yellow census posters in your neighbourhood, introducing you to your particular census official. Perhaps you have already been visited and gone through the rather tedious process of answering questions as your form was filled in.
If not, and you are still anticipating a visit, here are a few things to consider and prepare for:
- After taking due care to ensure that the census taker is in fact legitimate (and not a crook in census clothing!), prepare to be friendly and welcoming, rather than suspicious and irritable. You can well imagine that the person being paid to do this job has potentially experienced a fair amount of animosity and hostility prior to getting to your gate. Yes, the enumerator is indeed being paid to do a job, but is there any harm in being friendly, cordial and co-operative? In fact, would it not be noticeable for you to be friendly (without delaying or detaining the official with unnecessary small talk) and considerate—and in so doing to adorn the gospel? Filling the form in over the wall or through your palisade will simply not do. Invite the person, an image-bearer of God, into your home!1
- Make the process of data-gathering as pleasant and productive as possible. You can imagine the temptation these workers feel to cheat and supply fictitious data simply to get through their quota. Your smile and friendly response would certainly be an encouragement and affirmation of the value of the exercise.
- You have nothing to hide regarding the size of your home or its occupants. If you do, then know that all things are open and transparent to God, so why the deception? Resist the temptation to be cynical, conspiratorial or suspicious that transparency on your part could result in some penalty or disadvantage further down the road—increased rates and taxes or something similar.
- Imagine how and where in the process you will let it be known that you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Be prepared to send the census taker away with both a positive impression of a Christian household, a suitable tract and maybe even a little refreshment, a chocolate, drink or snack.
- Pray for God’s common grace to our country and to those in authority over us, as forms are filled in and data is gathered, collated and analysed. This process is due to take the best part of a year once the forms are handed in by the end of the month.