RESEARCH & Summaries of Most Major Studies of No. American Congregations

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  This list, curated by Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research, is one of the best curated listings of scholarly research available on the web.


“The study of congregations has become a primary focus of sociologists of religion in the past decade.  The local church is now seen by researchers as an important component of an individual’s faith and religious practice in the United States.  The increased role of congregations in American public life makes the study of these local religious organizations increasingly important.

This section offers summaries of major research projects which have the congregation as a focus of study.  They are listed in rough chronological order.”

Others research summaries coming soon.

View congregational survey question bank drawn from the survey instruments of several of the above projects


More research from Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research Page (below):

Visit our research section on Megachurches – This section of the site contains research, writings and an extensive database of megachurches in the U.S.

Women and Religion – Information from several studies on the role of women in religion can be found in this section.  Included are links to other web resources on women and religion.

Religion and the Family – Several recent studies on religion and changing family dynamics are highlighted in this section. Information on the family ministries of churches and denominations is also included.

Religion and the Web – The Internet is changing the face of religion. Several articles discussing these changes are included here. This section also has links to sites about religion and the Internet.

Pentecostalism – Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing religious phenomena in the past century.  Research on religious groups practicing expressive, charismatic worship is described in this section.

Orthodox Churches in the United States – This section has one of a kind research on the major branches of the Orthodox Church in the USA.  It includes tables of fact, articles and links to more information.

Homosexuality and Religion – This section contains information on this controversial topic.  Included here are reports of denominational debates, research data and links to information on this subject.

Quick Questions – Our quick questions section is the archive of factoids drawn from studies and research reports we feature in this web site.  Individual questions are rotated onto our homepage approximately every week.  These questions are intended to highlight the diverse research findings contained on the Institute web site.

Faith Based Social Services/Charitable Choice – Links to research articles and other useful sites are provided here on the subject of congregations providing social services to address issues of the needy within their community.

WORSHIP & Fewer Churches Changing Worship Style / More Churches Less Innovative #AmericanCongregationsStudy

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My colleague Aaron Earls, while analyzing Hartford Seminary’s American Congregations 2015 study, points out that innovation in worship is declining today. Earls sums up how this impacts churches by stating, “While it may signal less conflict over worship changes, less innovation does make churches less likely to grow or be healthy, according to the American Congregations report.” Relevant and engaging worship is critical for the sake of church mission and so she needs to launch into innovative worship again. While writing the book “Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations” one major takeaway was that innovative worship kept younger churches not only growing, but their worship more joyful too. Read Earl’s article for good insights based on Hartford Seminary’s report.

Fewer Churches Changing Worship Style
by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, 3/31/16.

Most churches appear to have settled on their preferred worship style, according to the American Congregations 2015 study, as the growth of contemporary music in worship has “largely plateaued” and churches’ willingness to change worship has declined over the last five years…

These three points demonstrate the static nature of worship in American churches.

1. Most see their church worship as similar to five years ago. When asked to describe their services as joyful, reverent, or thought provoking, there were only slight variations in the last five years.

Those describing their worship as very joyful grew less than 1 percent, while those calling their worship reverent decreased by slightly more than 2 percent. The percentage saying it was thought provoking remained the same.

2. Contemporary worship has plateaued. To avoid a vague definition of contemporary worship, researchers began asking churches if they used electric guitars. After a relatively large jump in usage toward the beginning of the century, growth has stalled.

Churches using electric guitars climbed almost 10 percent from 2000 to 2005, but since then growth has been under 2 percent in the last 10 years.

3. Fewer churches describe their worship as innovative. Churches where worship is described as “quite or very innovative” declined from 38 percent to 32 percent.

While it may signal less conflict over worship changes, less innovation does make churches less likely to grow or be healthy, according to the American Congregations report…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/17/fewer-churches-changing-worship-style/#.Vv0MLGH3aJI