DEMOGRAPHICS & In booming Austin, Texas, churches struggle to keep pace with the city’s growth.

by Eileen Flynn, Faith and Leadership Magazine, 3/19/19.

At a time when many churches in the United States are struggling, some even dying, a counternarrative is playing out in booming Austin, one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Though not all of Austin’s congregations are thriving, some area churches are clearly being squeezed by the region’s population explosion over the last decade. And while packed pews are a cause for celebration, the rapid growth presents challenges, and perhaps even a few lessons — lessons about hospitality, welcome and community in an era of increasing isolation.

full sanctuary
A band leads contemporary worship in the fellowship hall at Covenant Presbyterian. 

 

The Austin metro area, a five-county region, has grown from 846,000 in 1990 to more than 2 million today. Since 2010, the area has absorbed more than 150 new people a day, counting births, according to a recent report. The city demographer predicts that Austin proper will likely hit the million mark by 2020. Newcomers gravitate to the area for tech jobs, the much-touted Austin lifestyle, and, for those coming from California and East Coast cities, more-affordable housing.

The boom has created big-city hassles: traffic jams and parking problems, a rising median home price, and seemingly endless construction. It’s also led to feelings of isolation and disconnection among residents, who seek community in the midst of massive change.

What are the causes of disconnection and isolation in your community? How can your church address them?

To accommodate the growth, church leaders have added more worship services and programs. They’ve expanded or built new sanctuaries. Some have gone multisite — often digitally streaming sermons from a main location to satellite campuses in the suburbs. They have planted churches like The Well that meet in school cafeterias. And they have created more small groups so members don’t feel overwhelmed.

Matter of arithmetic?

Church growth in Austin may be a simple matter of arithmetic, said Mark Chaves, a Duke University sociologist who studies religion. Population growth has always been an important driver of church growth; more people moving to an area means more people attending its churches. Indeed, some churches in other rapidly growing areas, such as Dallas and Nashville, have also experienced explosive growth.

Although church attendance is declining nationally, it’s impossible to say for sure whether anything exceptional is happening in Austin, barring a study of per capita attendance in the area, Chaves said.

“Whether there’s a higher percentage of Austin population attending church now than before — I suspect not,” he said.

Still, Austin’s rapid urbanization and transience seem to have stirred a longing for a spiritual family, church leaders say. As the city becomes more crowded, new transplants and longtime residents alike can feel lonely and unmoored. And that’s driving up attendance in some congregations.

At Covenant, a Presbyterian (U.S.A) congregation founded in the early 1960s, the four Sunday services draw more than 1,000 people every week, up from about 700 in 2013. The church recently paid off its 60,000-square-foot fellowship and education building. Annual giving is at an all-time high.

“We’re jumping right now,” said the Rev. Thomas Daniel, who has served as senior pastor since 2014. “I love it. This is what you want to be a part of.”

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/booming-austin-texas-churches-struggle-keep-pace-citys-growth?utm_source=FL_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=FL_topstory

Speaking Hashtags: #StMarksTX

TRENDS & Access link to the #DukeUniversity National Congregations Study #NCS #NCSIII #StrategicChurchPlanning

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I often cite the valuable research in Duke University’s National Congregations Survey.

Here are a few application ideas:

TRENDS & 5 Trends from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study #DukeUniversity #JSSR #UnivChicago

SIZE & The Median Church in the US has 75 Regular Participants on Sunday Mornings #NationalCongregationsStudy #NCS

TRENDS & Church Is More Informal, Like Society, Study Finds #NationalCongregationsSurvey #NYTimes

MULTIPLICATION & Churches are starting more sites, but fewer worship services.

DIVERSITY & Diversity in churches is increasing. #reMIXbook

CHURCH SIZE & Separation between smallest and largest churches widens.

TRENDS & The Most Impt. Observations from The National Congregations Study (NCSIII) #Duke #MarkChaves #NCS

 

To access this study yourself,  below is an introduction to the National Congregations Study and a link to the results.


(the following is from http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/about.html)

About the National Congregations Study

Congregations are the basic social unit of American religious life. They are the local gatherings of people that exist within almost every religion in the United States. They include churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. Nearly all collective religious activity in America occurs through them.

Congregations are:

  • the primary site of religious ritual activity;
  • an organizational model followed even by religious groups new to this country;
  • a place of sociability and community for more than half of all Americans;
  • a source of opportunities for community service, civic engagement, and political action;
  • a location for a wide variety of community events and social service activities; and
  • the main context in which religious identities are forged and reinforced through education and practice.

The National Congregations Study (NCS) is an ongoing national survey effort to gather information about the basic characteristics of America’s congregations. The first wave of the NCS took place in 1998, Wave II was fielded in 2006–07, and Wave III was completed in 2012. The study was repeated in order to track both continuity and change among American congregations. Waves II and III also explore subjects that were not explored in Wave I. Over all three waves, a total of 3,815 congregations have participated in the NCS.

There is no doubt that religious congregations are a significant part of American society. We know congregational life is changing, but it is difficult to document exactly what is changing in the 21st century, and how fast. The National Congregations Study contributes to knowledge about American congregations by collecting information about a wide range of their characteristics and programs across time. NCS results have helped us to better understand many aspects of congregational life in the United States.
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In all three waves,
the research was done in conjunction with the General Social Survey (GSS). The 1998, 2006, and 2012 GSS asked respondents who attend religious services to name their religious congregation, thus generating a nationally representative sample of religious congregations. Researchers then located these congregations.

A key informant at each congregation – a minister, priest, rabbi, or other staff person or leader – provided each congregation’s information via a one-hour interview conducted either over the phone or in person. The survey gathered information on many topics, including the congregation’s leadership, social composition, structure, activities, and programming.

Using this web site you can review the survey methodology and the questionnaires themselves (Methodology), work with the survey responses to find out the basic facts for each question (Explore the Data), create your own customized tables that cross-tabulate responses to two different questions (Explore the Data), and learn where you can find more extensive writings about the research results (Study Writings).

You can also download the combined data from the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA). Both waves have been combined into one dataset for ease of use.

Read more at … http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/about.html

TRENDS & The Most Impt. Observations from The National Congregations Study (NCSIII) #Duke #MarkChaves #NCS

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The National Congregations Study (NCSIII) is, along with The American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving survey by David A. Roozen, one of the best snapshots of American Christianity and where it is going. You can download the free and complete report here.

Mark Chaves and Alison Eagle begin their report with what they designate some of their “most important observations” including:

  • The number of congregations claiming no denominational affiliation increased from 18% in 1998 to 24% in 2012
  • White mainline congregations, and the people in those congregations, are older than the congregations and people of other religious traditions
  • Most congregations are small but most people are in large congregations
  • People are increasingly concentrated in very large congregations
  • The average congregation is getting smaller, but the average churchgoer attends a larger congregation
  • People in smaller congregations give more money to their churches than do people in larger congregations
  • Worship services have become more informal and expressive
  • 10% of churchgoers worship in multi-site congregations
  • American solo or senior pastoral leaders are more ethnically diverse and older, but not more female, than they were in 1998
  • Thirteen percent (13%) of congregations are led by volunteer senior or solo pastoral leaders
  • Assistant and associate ministers and specialized congregational staff constitute 42% of the full-time ministerial work force and three-quarters (74%) of the part-time ministerial work force.
  • Compared to solo and senior pastoral leaders, secondary ministerial staff are more female, younger, less likely to be seminary educated, and more likely to have been hired from within the congregation
  • There is increasing ethnic diversity over time both among and within American congregations
  • Food assistance is by far the most common kind of social service activity pursued by congregations, with more than half (52%) of all congregations listing food assistance among their four most important social service programs
  • When congregations lobby elected officials or participate in demonstrations or marches, the issues they most commonly engage are poverty, abortion, and same-sex marriage
  • Acceptance of female lay leadership is very widespread, with 79% of congregations allowing women to hold any volunteer position a man can hold, and 86% allowing women to serve on the main governing board
  • Congregational acceptance of gays and lesbians as members and lay leaders increased substantially between 2006 and 2012, but acceptance levels vary widely across religious traditions

The National Congregations Study was directed by Mark Chaves, Professor of Sociology, Religious Studies, and Divinity at Duke University. This report was written by Mark Chaves and Alison Eagle, and designed by Spring Davis. It is a much revised and updated version of American Congregations at the Beginning of the 21st Century, written by Mark Chaves, Shawna Anderson, and Jason Byassee after the 2006 NCS.

Download the survey here:  National Congregations Study (NCSIII) .

DIVERSITY & Many U.S. congregations are still racially segregated, but things are changing #PewResearch #ReMIXbook

by MICHAEL LIPKA, 12/11/14, Pew Research.

Nearly a half century after Martin Luther King Jr. called 11 a.m. on Sunday morning the most segregated hour in America, two Florida churches with different racial compositions – one with a predominantly black congregation, the other predominantly white – are set to merge.

Many U.S. congregations are still racially segregated, but things are changingThe move occurs amid a larger, but slow-moving, national trend. While the degree of racial segregation within religious congregations remains high, some houses of worship in the U.S. have become more diverse in recent years, according to findings from the most recent (2012) National Congregations Study (NCS), directed by Duke University researcher Mark Chaves. (The most recent study received financial support from the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.)

Indeed, while about eight-in-ten American congregants still attend services at a place where a single racial or ethnic group comprises at least 80% of the congregation, one-in-five now worship in congregations where no single racial or ethnic group predominates in such a way. This figure has risen in recent years, from 15% in the 1998 NCS and 17% in the 2006-07 NCS…

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/08/many-u-s-congregations-are-still-racially-segregated-but-things-are-changing-2/

CHURCH ATTENDANCE & Quotes from “American Religion: Contemporary Trends” by Mark Chaves

(Compiled by Warren Bird from American Religion: Contemporary Trends by Mark Chaves, Princeton University Press.)

Relevant points:

– The U.S. ranks as one of the most pious and religious of any Western countries (p. 1-2)

– For most of the past 300 years, 35%-40% of the population has participated in church with some degree of regularity (p2)

– Despite what people SAY about weekly attendance, the true weekly rate is closer to 25% (p 45). If we use lesser frequencies, more than 60% of American adults have attended a service at a religious congregation in the last year (p 55).

– While it’s debatable whether the attendance is going down or remaining level, the data is unambiguous that overall church attendance is attendance not increasing (p 47). More specifically, religious service attendance declined in the several decades leading up to 1990 and seems to have been essentially stable thereafter (p 49).

– However, the percent who say they “never” attend church has risen steadily over the last 30 years as people shift from infrequent attendance to nonattendance (pp 46, 48).

– Finally, the Protestant portion of the U.S. population is in decline, due to the rise in “nones” (no religious preference), decline of mainline denominations, and rise in the percent of recent immigrants claiming a religion other than Christian (pp 17-24). The Protestant makeup was 62% in the early 1970s to just over 50% today (p 24). If that trend continues, we will soon be a Protestant-minority country.

Read more at … http://www.christianbook.com/apps/product?item_no=146850;product_redirect=1;Ntt=146850;item_code=WW;Ntk=keywords;event=ESRCP

TRENDS & 5 Trends from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study #DukeUniversity #JSSR #UnivChicago

ABSTRACT:  The third wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS-III) was conducted in 2012. The 2012 General Social Survey asked respondents who attend religious services to name their religious congregation, producing a nationally representative cross-section of congregations from across the religious spectrum. Data about these congregations was collected via a 50-minute interview with one key informant from 1,331 congregations. Information was gathered about multiple aspects of congregations’ social composition, structure, activities, and programming. Approximately two-thirds of the NCS-III questionnaire replicates items from 1998 or 2006-07 NCS waves. Each congregation was geocoded, and selected data from the 2010 United States census or American Community Survey have been appended. We describe NCS-III methodology and use the cumulative NCS dataset (containing 4,071 cases) to describe five trends:

1)   more ethnic diversity,

2)  greater acceptance of gays and lesbians,

3)  increasingly informal worship styles,

4)  declining size (but not from the perspective of the average attendee),

5)  and declining denominational affiliation.

Read more at … http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/Docs/Changing_American_Congs.pdf

Changing American Congregations: Findings from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study*

by Mark Chaves Department of Sociology Duke University Durham, and Shawna L. Anderson NORC at the University of Chicago (Forthcoming in the December, 2014 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion)

*The NCS-III was funded by a major grant from the Lilly Endowment, and by additional grants from the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project, Louisville Institute, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, RAND Corporation, and Church Music Institute. It also received generous support from Duke University and from the National Science Foundation via NSF’s support of the General Social Survey. Jodie Daquilinea led NORC’s NCS team, and Viviana Calandra translated the questionnaire into Spanish. Cyrus Schleifer and Alison Eagle helped analyze data and construct the figures.

Download the report … Changing_American_Congs.pdf