Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I often cite the valuable research in Duke University’s National Congregations Survey.
Here are a few application ideas:
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.
- 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.
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