- Theological Education
Best Resources on Congregations
Researching and providing resources for congregations is a primary interest of many of the projects affiliated with Insights into Religion. Our affiliates conduct research, keep archives, present interviews and provide commentary on a variety of topics of interest to congregations.
Local Congregations — Data, Research and Faith Practices
The African American Lectionary is a resource tool that highlights the African American ecclesial traditions and the moments that express the joy, freedom and challenge of being both African American and Christian. It endeavors to bring to key days of the liturgical calendar both the rich heritage and diverse perspective of the African American Christian tradition.
Calvin Institute of Christian Worship promotes both the study of Christian worship and the renewal of worship in Christian communities. The site offers a range of material, from worship-planning aids, practical articles and scholarly papers, to training events that target aspects of Christian worship in order to help worship leaders and participants enhance their worship experience.
Faith & Leadership is the online magazine of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School. The mission of Leadership Education is to focus multiple disciplines on the task of designing and delivering educational services that strengthen the practice of Christian leadership. Online resources include video interviews, theological reflection, in-depth articles and stories, and reading lists. A companion blog, Call & Response, offers a daily roundup of news, ideas and commentary.
Faith Communities Today is the public face of the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership, a consortium of more than 25 faith communities, denominations, scholars and researchers. The consortium develops and deploys a common survey instrument that gathers information across faith and ethnic lines. The result is a highly accurate view of life in local communities of faith and valuable perspective on their similarities and differences. FACT publishes its findings in occasional articles and a series of free, downloadable reports that can also be inexpensively purchased in booklet form.
Hartford Institute for Religion Research conducts policy-relevant research on emerging trends. The institute has conducted groundbreaking studies on the movement of women into the role of clergy, current trends in church membership and changes in theological seminaries and national denominations. A key subpage of the site is the Congregations page, which offers an extensive set of links to articles, studies and other research projects. But also be certain to check out all of the subpages.
Indianapolis Center for Congregations is charged with helping strengthen Indiana congregations as they negotiate opportunities and challenges. The center’s years of working with local faith communities has allowed it to develop a range of field-tested perspectives and resources that it shares with all congregations through its online archives.
National Congregations Study is an ongoing national study that samples key representatives of local faith communities in order to gather information about a wide range of characteristics and activities of America’s congregations. Two waves of study have been conducted (1998 and 2006-07); the data has been loaded onto the website in a form that allows visitors to conduct their own comparisons of factors, and to compare their own congregations to national benchmarks established by the data.
National Study of Youth and Religion is designed to enhance understanding of the religious and spiritual lives of American youth from adolescence into young adulthood; to identify effective practices in the religious, moral and social formation of youth; to describe the extent and effectiveness of programs and opportunities offered to youth by their religious communities; and to encourage sustained reflection about the cultural and institutional practices targeting youth and religion. To date the study has conducted three waves of data gathering (2002, 2005, 2007-08), including follow-up surveys of youth as they age, and surveys of parents to broaden the overall understanding of similarities and differences of perspective between youth and their adult caregivers. Study findings are disseminated through press releases, reports, articles and books, all linked on the website.
New Media Project at Christian Theological Seminary helps churches interpret the significant changes in communication and technology taking place and create a framework with which to employ technology to strengthen the local faith community.
Practicing Our Faith is a website of the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith. Its mission is to develop resources that speak to the spiritual hunger of contemporary adults with the wisdom of the Christian faith as expressed in traditional practices. The website, which can stand on its own, complements the book Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People (updated in 2010). At the core of both the website and the book are 12 time-honored practices shaped by the Christian community through the centuries. The website offers a range of resources, including valuable inspiration for embracing the practices, to help form lives of discipleship and faith.
A companion website, Way to Live, serves as a complement to the book of the same title (published in 2002) that challenges teens to explore 18 practices that can shape their lives with God and others. The book was developed with the help of teens, allowing both the book and the website to speak in ways other teens recognize about real-life issues and many of the hard questions facing contemporary teenagers.
Pulpit & Pew is an archived site of a completed interdenominational research project that surveyed Christian clergy between 2001 and 2004 – the largest survey of U.S. pastors ever conducted. The site contains various reports in PDF format, along with a variety of preliminary research articles, lectures, sermons, links to books and other material explicating the survey data.
Resources for American Christianity helps leaders and participants in Christian communities, as well as scholars and others, better understand the impact, trends and trajectories of Christianity in American society by providing information and reflection on selected research projects funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. Of particular help are the interviews, articles and study guides under the “Overview Resources” tab.
U.S. Congregational Life Survey is the largest and most representative profile of worshippers and their congregations ever conducted in the United States. Conducted in two waves (2001 and 2008-09), the survey reveals how worshippers experience and connect with their congregations and offers a national benchmark for comparison by individual congregations that participate in the study. A unique feature of the project is its invitation for any congregation to participate by registering to self-administer the survey and return it for professional analysis. In turn, the project will provide an interpretation of results, with recommendations and suggested resources to help the congregation build upon its strengths.
For more help, explore each of the subtopics in the Congregations section of Insights Into Religion.