Subject: DNS -- Disciples congregations take part in massive study of
Date: March 12, 2001
Disciples News Service
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Contact: Clifford L. Willis
on the Web: http://www.disciples.org
INDIANAPOLIS (DNS) -- The results of the largest survey of religious
congregations ever conducted in the United States were released March 13 in
New York. 283 congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
are represented in Faith Communities Today (FACT), a Report on Religion in
the United States Today. In all, 14,301 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon and
Baha'i local communities of worship representing 41 faith traditions
participated in the project, which progressed over the last four years from
discussion through surveying to the publication of findings.
In addition to providing a wealth of research data, Faith Communities Today
provides congregations with a valuable new tool for self-reflection and
evaluation. The project's Interactive Workbook is a guide for pastors and lay
leaders to discuss the health of the congregation in five areas: public
worship, spiritual growth, inviting and including, community outreach and
managing and leading. "I think the workbook has the power to stimulate honest
discussion about a congregation's mission and vitality," said the Rev. Bruce
Fowlkes, key FACT educator for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The workbook proposes such questions as:
* What are we saying about God in our worship?
* How does our worship reach out to others?
* Do we reach out across racial/ethnic diversity?
* Are we gaining or losing membership?
* What is our capacity for vision, innovation and change?"
Having discussed those and other questions, a congregation can compare its
profile to other Disciples congregations, congregations of other Protestant,
Catholic or Orthodox traditions, to local communities of other religious
faiths or to all of the congregations involved in the research. The
Interactive Workbook is available to the public on the World Wide Web at
The FACT report is full of data, and detailed graphs and charts, but also
offers summaries, which include findings that: 50 percent of congregations
report they are growing; most congregations report that they welcome change;
changes in worship often prompt serious congregational conflict; faith
communities gain identity from a common heritage and culture; growth, change
and conflict are interrelated; worship is the foundational activity among
congregations; outreach programs by which congregations express their faith
in action are high priorities; overall, the physical condition of
congregational buildings is more solid than troubled; and most clergy (89
percent) are paid.
"While many of these findings are not surprising, they do provide hard data
on many of our suspicions, both positive and negative, about the state of
mainline Protestant churches," said Fowlkes. "What we do with these findings,
namely recognizing the strong correlation between change, growth and vitality,
is a key to strengthening Disciples congregations for mission," he said.
Fowlkes will lead an interest group on FACT and using the Interactive
Workbook and FACT data at the General Synod/Assembly in Kansas City in July.
Research data on Disciples congregations are in usable form now via the
Interactive Workbook on the FACT website. Researchers interested in the
complete results of the surveys of Disciples congregations can obtain that
information from the Office of Research in the Office of General Minister
Office of Research director, the Rev. Mike Naylor, hopes to organize the
complete Disciples FACT data set to make it more accessible "so a
congregation, region or anyone else who needs the information can slice and
dice just the data they need to utilize them in their planning and
visioning." Naylor also is the key FACT researcher for the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ).
Faith Communities Today is the research and educational program of the
Cooperative Congregational Studies Project coordinated by The Hartford
Institute for Religion Research, Hartford (Conn.) Seminary. The institute's
Carl S. Dudley and David A. Roozen are the primary architects of the study
and the authors of the report.
©Copyright 2001, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Page last updated/revised 040101
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