Bahai News - New survey will help churches, synagogues, mosques

New survey will help churches, synagogues, mosques

Received by the WFN Archive: Aug 24 2000 9:38 AM

Subject: [PCUSAnews] New survey will help churches, synagogues, mosques

Note #6161 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Title: New survey will help churches, synagogues, mosques

New survey will help churches, synagogues, mosques

40 faith groups participate in largest-ever study of religious life of congregations

by J. Martin Bailey

CHICAGOŚ As responses poured in for the most extensive study of American religious life ever conducted, representatives of a broad-based interfaith coalition outlined plans here Aug. 7-9 for strengthening Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i congregations across the nation.

The survey of local churches, mosques and synagogues is being conducted by more than 40 participating groups working together in the coalition known as Faith Communities Today (FACT).

David Roozen, the project's co-director, told the FACT gathering that 95 percent of all worshipers in the U.S. will be represented in the study. Roozen is professor at the Hartford (Conn.) Seminary and director of its Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

The Chicago meeting marked a transition from data gathering to utilization, he said. With a researcher's wry smile, he announced: "The hard work is over, now our fun begins. Analysis of the extensive data will occupy scholars for months, even years."

Co-director Carl Dudley led conversations among researchers, educators and communication specialists about ways that the local groups will study themselves in the light of the FACT findings. "We want to help the congregations build on their strengths and overcome any weaknesses," Dudley said. "This will be the most powerful use of the data." Dudley also teaches at the Hartford Seminary and is involved in the Institute.

Preliminary analysis of the responses shows that most of the congregations consider themselves "spiritually vital and alive" and that nearly half (48%) of the congregations report that the number of regularly participating adults has grown since 1995.

The still incomplete returns indicate that youth participation is also surprisingly high. Fifty-five percent of the congregations reported that "most" or "almost all" the high school aged children of adult members are involved in the religious life and activities of the congregation. Another 27 percent of the congregations said "some" of the members' children were involved.

The coalition that developed and conducted the survey includes mainline, Pentecostal, evangelical, independent and mega-church Protestants as well as Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Baha'i and others.

Researchers and educators from more than 40 faith groups have been working on the project for nearly five years. The FACT data will help the faith groups develop strategies and programs that also can be based on the U.S. Census statistics. Congregations and other religious organizations will be able to study the FACT data within zip-code geographic areas.

The research was funded in part by the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis, Ind. Each faith group was responsible for gathering its own data through statistically valid samples and will develop its own follow-up programs. The faith groups used nearly 190 questions from a common "core questionnaire." Some groups added additional questions of a specialized nature.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) survey was conducted by the denomination's Research Services Office.

Roozen and Dudley said that the final aggregate results will be announced publicly early in 2001. Among the materials that will be developed to help local congregations will be self-guiding workbooks, study documents, analytical reports, websites, and newsletters. Workbooks will be offered to theological seminaries, interfaith organizations, and denominational offices as well as to local churches, synagogues and mosques.

©Copyright 2000, Worldwide Faith News

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