The Faith Communities Today 2000 research project was the largest survey of congregations ever conducted in the United States. It was also the most inclusive, denominationally sanctioned program of interfaith cooperation.
The Faith Communities Today data brought together 26 individual surveys of congregations representing 41 denominations and faith groups. Project participants developed a common core questionnaire. Faith groups then conducted their own surveys of a sample of congregations. More than 14,300 congregations participated in the survey. Typically, the congregation’s leader completed the questionnaire.
Although all denominations and faith groups in the United States had the opportunity to participate in the project, not all of them did. The 41 participating denominations and faith groups include about 90 percent of worshipers in the United States. These denominations and faith groups worked together in interfaith cooperation to undertake this survey. Their collaboration for this purpose was unprecedented.
The Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut, initiated the Faith Communities Today project. Co-directors of the project at its inception were Carl S. Dudley, Professor of Church and Community at Hartford Seminary, and David A. Roozen, Director of Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Professor of Religion and Society at Hartford Seminary. Funding was provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. and the faith groups.
The survey found it reassuring that:
- The great majority of faith communities are vital and alive.
- Half the faith communities see themselves as growing in numbers, especially those using or blending contemporary forms of worship and those located in newer suburbs.
- The faith communities in the United States are making major contributions to the welfare of their communities through a combination of social and spiritual ministries.
At the same time, the survey found it disturbing that:
- Many congregations have a commitment to undertake social welfare programs – and the space – but lack the infrastructure.
- To remain vital, congregations must change, but that change can prove costly – leading to conflict that negatively impacts member growth, new volunteers and financial support.
- Congregations that enact their faith without explicit expectations for members experience less vitality and more conflict.