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Best Resources on Congregational Vitality

When churches think about growth and self-improvement, congregational vitality often emerges as a primary goal. A sense of vitality has been used as a way to evaluate a community’s current state and progress toward renewal. Insights Into Religion contains a number of resources to help church leaders discover how to create and maintain a flourishing and vibrant church community.

Measuring Congregational Vitality

The U.S. Congregational Life Survey is the most comprehensive and rigorous profile of worshippers ever conducted in the United States. Conducted between 2001 and 2010, the survey provides a unique and accurate window into the lives of actual worshippers — their concerns and values and the ways they connect with their faith communities.

The National Congregations Study interviewed faith leaders from a sample of churches, synagogues, mosques and other local places of worship about a wide range of topics, including each congregation’s social composition, structure, activities and programs. The results provide a rich body of information about continuity and change in American congregations, as seen from the perspective of faith community leaders.

Faith Communities Today (FACT) is the public voice of a group of researchers and religious leaders from more than 25 faith groups who cooperatively survey their respective congregations. This ongoing project, begun in 2000, gathers information about key descriptors of congregational life and practice in the United States, and produces a regularly updated profile of the American congregation.

The Hartford Institute for Religion Research researches and identifies emerging trends relating to congregational life, religious practice and emerging faith issues. The database of articles and reports offers perspective on congregational vitality, including through a series of "inventories" that provide overviews of church dynamics, planning procedures, and choosing a new pastor.

Resources for American Christianity is an online repository for information and reflection on select projects funded by the Lilly Endowment for religion research. The site’s expanding database is categorized and searchable by subject matter and topic, and features basic data, scholarly interpretation and general articles on a wide variety of issues of interest to congregations and their leadership.

The Center for Congregations’ mission is to help strengthen Indianapolis-area congregations, and does so by offering educational events and material on a variety of common congregational issues. Both on its website and through its affiliation with the Alban Institute, the ICC shares its insights with faith communities across the country.

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship promotes the study and renewal of Christian worship through a range of online material related to leadership, practice and participation in worship.

Practicing Our Faith is designed as a companion to the book Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People, which seeks to encourage participation in 12 time-honored practices, developed and shaped by the Christian community through the centuries and newly framed to be relevant to contemporary seekers. A companion endeavor, Way to Live, targets teens with the challenge to live out 18 practices that can shape their lives with God and others.

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