April 1998 – June 2001
Submitted by Hartford Seminary
Hartford Institute for Religion Research
Carl S. Dudley and David Roozen, Project Principals
I. Project Initiation and Goals:
The Cooperative Congregational Studies Project had a modest beginning during the October, 1995 meeting of the Religious Research Association, in a panel discussion lead by the co-principals with a few church researchers who wanted to collaborate in studying congregations. (Recently more researchers "remembered" attending that discussion than there seats available in the small room at that time!) In the past two years with generous support of Lilly Endowment (Grants 96-0206 and 97-0587) we discovered far greater interest in this project than we anticipated as the number of participants has grown to representatives from about 40 religious denominations, groups and clusters of independent churches. During this time we have achieved our initial goal to develop a core questionnaire that could be used in an interfaith study of congregational life at the time of the U.S. census in 2000. We also generated broad commitment among an interfaith coalition to work together to integrate common procedures, comparable instruments, and coordinated schedules to develop and disseminated data with congregations and their supporting organizations throughout the United States.
In earlier grant applications we stated our ambitions:
to create the first national, interfaith data bank on congregational characteristics;
to augment the sample size for comparisons within and among participants;
to improve the quality and quantity of useable information;
to utilize these research results with local leaders facing practical problems;
to use these applications to strengthen congregations and their supporting organizations;
to develop a cooperative relationship in research and dissemination that is mutually beneficial, economical, and sustainable within our separate resources.
After these two years working together we can summarize our vision in two primary goals: first, to complete a genuinely cooperative interfaith research project unparalleled in the breadth of participating religious groups and the number of participating congregations; and, second, to develop and implement plans for utilizing the survey research results in ways that will be appropriate within each participating group to strengthen congregations and the structures that support them.
The hundreds of thousands of congregations throughout the United States represent a unique set of voluntary organizations that have had and continue to have a pervasive influence on their members and the life of the communities of which they are a part. Today’s congregations are under pressure from changing demographics, changing institutional configurations, and changing values in the American culture. Some congregations are finding the pressure of change overwhelming. But many more are finding faithful and effective ways of ministry in new situations.
These congregations faithfully minister to their members, invite new people into their membership, and provide service to their communities. They also provide motivation and organization of vast volunteer efforts aimed at improving our society and the lives of individuals. Despite available research technology and broad interest in congregational life, current congregational studies are relatively limited in their denominational orientation and organizational focus (see attached Brief Orientation to Congregational Studies). A widely inclusive, national, multi-faith study of congregations would provide the first common data bank of basic information. In fact, for several participating groups this effort will provide the first ever statistical profile of their congregations and for many it would serve as their first constructive use of congregational studies. This information, if disseminated and utilized within the religious culture of each group, could have a significant impact to shape and strengthen innumerable congregations throughout America.
To that end, we have developed a cooperative effort among professional researchers of separate institutions to generate a single, broad, coherent picture of congregations in the United States, and we have gathered interpreters from within these religious groups to utilize the research in their own congregations and religious structures. In uniquely American voluntary style, we assembled an interfaith coalition of research and educational leaders who are committed to develop common procedures, shared data gathering and analysis, and utilization of information. Although individually limited in experience and resources, our cooperative approach permits us to broaden the base of ownership and financial support while gathering the data and sharing the results within the organization and language of each participating group, thus reducing the overhead costs while expanding the impact.
With support of Lilly Grants (96-0206 and 97-0587), during 1996 and 1997 the initial interest of a few protestant denominational researchers grew into a multi-layered organization of researchers and key teachers. In these two years plenary sessions of interested participants met four times, twice in Chicago (the most central location) and once each in Nashville and San Diego (in association with annual gatherings of professional religious research societies), to slowly negotiate a common research instrument and procedure, and to develop strategies of dissemination that were congenial with the wide variety of traditions represented among the participants. These plenary meetings were planned by a representative executive committee, and managed by Carl Dudley and David Roozen, co-principals of the project. As we moved toward the form of a common questionnaire, each meeting increased in intensity of discussion and in diversity of participation, continually adding participants (more than 70 people have joined our discussions) until we now number representatives from about 40 denominations, associations and clusters of independent religious bodies (for the current list of participants, see attached List of Representatives).
Currently, strongly committed research representatives are drawn from the following denominations/groups: American Baptist Churches, Assemblies of God, Bahai National Center, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Church of Christ, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church of the Nazarene, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Mennonite Church, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian (U.S.A.), Roman Catholic Church, Reformed Church in America, Seventh-day Adventist, Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
In addition to direct representation, we have participation from academic research groups related to Black Churches (African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ), Christian Methodist Episcopal Church CME), Church of God in Christ (COGIC), National Baptist Convention, USA., Inc. (NBC), National Baptist Convention of America, Unincorporated (NBCA), National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), Progressive National Baptist Association, Inc.); Muslim associations; Independent Christian Churches (three clusters, plus one group of mega churches); Jewish Groups (Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform); and Orthodox Christian groups (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of North America; Armenian Church, Diocese of America; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, and Orthodox Church in America). Our discussions have also included leaders of three well known research and consulting organizations, Alban Institute, Barna Associates, and Percept, Inc.
B. Project Management
>The organizational structure and continuing work of this group has been carried by Carl S. Dudley and David A. Roozen, Co-Directors of the Center for Social and Religious Research, Hartford Seminary, who will continue as principal investigators for the project. In the next phase we intend to divide our executive committee into two groups, one working with research and the other with utilization. The composition of these groups will change with the issues we face and the available personnel, and the two planning groups will continue to work closely together. In addition to the working committees, much of our productive relationship with participants will continue to be handled through personal contacts by email, phone, individual conversations, and small face to face meetings.
Office support will continue to be provided by the Center for Social and Religious Research. CCSP co-principals will continue to share responsibility to organize the plenary conferences and planning sessions, to prepare and distribute the materials, and to manage the fiscal responsibilities of the project, as listed below in greater detail. Beyond our own resources, we will continue to utilize various specialists to prepare working papers and provide needed leadership.
II. Research Component
The research component of the Cooperative Congregation Studies Project will consist of a key-informant, national survey of congregations. Each participating denomination/group will survey or sub-contract with a researcher or research organization to survey its own congregations. These surveys will use a commonly developed core set of close-ended questions, supplemented by additional questions at a denomination/group’s discretion and cost. The questionnaire will be mailed (except as noted below) to a stratified random sample of congregations, the sample drawn using commonly developed guidelines intended to produce a sampling error of, at a minimum, plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Each denomination/group will use commonly developed follow-up guidelines to maximize returns and use commonly developed protocols to code and produce a digital data file of the core question responses to its survey. A copy of each denomination\group’s core data file will be sent to the CCSP central coordinating office where it will be merged with zip-code based census data for each congregation, and this merged data file then merged with the data files from all denominations/groups, producing an all-group-aggregate data set.
A. Mailed, Key-Informant Survey of Congregations
During the first year of project planning, CCSP representatives articulated and debated five different possible approaches to an anticipated cooperative study of congregations. The alternatives included: (1) a key-informant survey of congregations; (2) a survey of members in a sizable sample of congregations, the within-congregation aggregated data from which would provide congregational characteristics; (3) the development and common archiving of member planning surveys that denomination’s occasionally do for individual congregations, the within-congregation aggregated data from which, again, would provide congregational characteristics, (4) ethnographic studies of congregations and (5) the development of a limited set of questions that all denominations would include in their annual requests for information from congregations (the "yearbook" option).
After careful consideration the decision was made to pursue the key-informant survey as the major thrust of our cooperative effort, with the other alternatives left for various sub-groups to pursue as interest dictated or for the total group to pick up at a future date. Both practical and substantive reasons guided this decision, especially after the yearbook option proved unworkable. Practically, it provides the broadest coverage of congregations per dollar cost and it is the least complex methodological and interpretive challenge for those denominations/groups with little or no experience with congregational research. Substantively, it provides a baseline that can be used to inform studies using the other alternatives. For example, the key-informant survey could be used to identify a highly targeted group of congregations for ethnographic study (e.g., congregations that successfully resolved major conflicts). Additionally, member surveys that are aggregated to produce organizational measures are typically supplemented by a single informant, fact-sheet questionnaire and the CCSP key-informant questionnaire could serve as this fact sheet questionnaire.
This is not to minimize the limitations of a key-informant, closed-ended question survey. It obviously provides, for instance, a less nuanced probing of issues and responses than either open-ended questions or ethnographies. Additionally, it is highly dependent on the knowledge and subjectivity of the "key-informant." To mitigate possible biases related to the latter we will keep questions that call for a subjective evaluation of the congregation to a minimum (e.g., does the congregation offer a quality worship service). But even "factual" questions can be problematic if it cannot be reasonably assumed that the key informant has the requested "facts." For example, while it may be reasonable to assume that a pastor or senior lay leader will know (or be able to provide a reasonable estimate of) how many "members" tithe, most participants in the CCSP feel that this is not a reasonable assumption in regard to how many members say grace before meals at home. Still further, a key-informant questionnaire does not provide the double-bang that a survey of congregational members could provide (i.e., individual member responses plus the potential to aggregate these individual responses to construct an organizational characteristic). Without minimizing these and other limitations of key-informant surveys, and when balanced against the pluses and minuses of all the alternatives, the key-informant survey proved to be the most viable approach for the CCSP effort. Although a final determination has yet to be made concerning the guidelines and/or terminology to be used in defining the key-informant to whom the questionnaire will be addressed, the heavy balance of opinion at the current time is to use a denomination/group’s equivalent of senior pastor or senior lay leader.
>The decision to use a mailed questionnaire as the preferred option is primarily driven by cost factors, although anonymity was also noted as a plus for some denominations/groups. Low response rates can be a downside of such a decision, but the experience of CCSP participants suggests that with appropriate follow-up efforts they have been able to obtain return rates as high as 70%, without providing a financial contribution to the respondents. A set of follow-up guidelines will be developed that pools the experience of CCSP participants, as well as a review of the broader survey literature. The guidelines will not include financial contributions, but are likely to include such things as a pre-questionnaire post-card, a cover letter endorsement from a credible denominational/group leader, a follow-up reminder post-card, a second mailing of the questionnaire to non-respondents, reminder phone calls and possibly telephone interviews using a shortened version of the mail questionnaire. An allowance for follow-up efforts is built into our survey cost estimates. A line item of supplemental research funds is also included in the grant request, one purpose of which is to supplement the follow-up efforts of denominations/groups with unusually low initial return rates.
It is anticipated that the vast majority of CCSP denominations/groups will use a mailed questionnaire and their matching grant research funding will be based on the costs of a mailed questionnaire. We also expect that several denominations, especially black denominations and/or non-English speaking language groups, may opt for doing a significant number of telephone interviews or even rely entirely upon telephone interviews. The CCSP central office will work with such groups to adapt the core questions to telephone format and to secure necessary supplemental funding. The supplemental research funds included in the grant proposal are not intended for this purpose.
B. Common Core Of Close-ended Questions and Census Data
While each participating denomination/group will conduct its own survey or sub-contract with a researcher or research organization to conduct its survey, that survey will use a commonly developed core set of close-ended questions, supplemented by additional questions at a denomination/group’s discretion. Parallel with early discussions about what approach to take to cooperative congregational studies, participants also began to articulate and debate general areas of congregational life to cover, should a survey approach be chosen. Three general principles framed this discussion. One was that a broad coverage of areas was preferable to a narrowly focused survey. A second was that any specific item included in the core questions be directly identifiable as of high interest to one or more of the project’s target constituencies, which include: congregational leaders, denominational/group resourcers of congregations, the general public through the media, and academic researchers. The third was that length of the questionnaire be affordable and not overly detrimental to a reasonable return rate. Once the decision was made to use a key-informant approach: (A) the latter was refined to a goal of 10 pages and/or about 20 minutes, and (B) seven areas of congregational life to cover in the core questions were articulated. These seven areas include:
Spiritual, organizational and statistical vitality;
The variety and style of worship — the foundational act of religious gathering;
The variety of congregational activities/programs which nurture faith or provide opportunities for the expression of faith;
Levels of participation and the characteristics of participants;
Strategies congregations use to reach new members and raise financial resources;
Characteristics of clergy and lay leadership;
How congregations relate to other congregations, to denominational structures and to other institutions in their communities; and,
The widely different ways that congregations support and strengthen the social and material well being of their communities.
Volunteer task forces of CCSP representatives initially reviewed prior congregational surveys to identify potential questions for each area and then submitted their findings to the research committee for drafting into a questionnaire. To date, four draft versions of the questionnaire have been produced and then reviewed by either CCSP representatives in plenary or the CCSP executive committee. The most current draft, reviewed by CCSP representatives in plenary last month (November, 1997) is attached, along with a "map" that correlates specific questions with the above seven areas. Feedback from last month’s review, including the additional mapping of specific questions to constituency interests, will be used by the research committee to produce a pre-test draft of the core questionnaire by mid-January, 1998.
The attached draft questionnaire is the first version to reach our "10 page goal" — prior versions ranged from 12 to 16 pages. It also represents our best effort to date in dealing with what has been the greatest challenge in the construction of the questionnaire (and perhaps the research committee’s richest source of learning and the questionnaire’s most unique feature) — namely, how to identify specific questions and question wordings that capture the richness of, yet work across, the interfaith coalition of traditions represented in the CCSP. While a majority of the questions are adaptations of items appearing in other congregational and "church member" questionnaires, several new items have been created to tap into the CCSP’s diversity, without resorting to a bland, "least common denominator" — e.g., Question I-4 on "preaching," Question I-10 on dimensions in worship, Question II-6 on home and personal practices and Question VII-4 on sources of religious authority. The challenge of question wording, however, has required an important concession regarding methodological purity. Specifically, in negotiation with the CCSP research committee each denomination/group will be permitted to change specific words in core items to insert the word or phrase that best communicates the intended meaning within its tradition (e.g., sermon, homily, lesson; church, congregation, ward, synagogue; clergy, minister, priest, rabbi, president; etc) and to delete core items that are totally inappropriate within its tradition.
Denominations/groups will be provided a digital copy of the core items by the CCSP central office, which the denominations/groups will then use to produce their own questionnaire. This "production" process will include, among other things, adaptation of core items and integration with supplemental questions included at a denomination/group’s discretion.
This process will first be used in the pre-test, with denominations/groups receiving a digital copy of the pre-test version of the core questions in late January, 1998. The pre-test, therefore, will provide not only a test of the core and supplemental questions, but also a test of the general questionnaire production process and the specific capacity of each denomination/group to produce their specific survey questionnaires. Additionally, it will provide the research committee a concrete basis for assessing and negotiating the range of individual denomination/group’s adaptation of core question wordings.
Along with a digital copy of the pre-test version of the core questions, denominations/groups will also be provided common guidelines for pre-testing their questionnaires. Pre-test results (both comments/suggestions/concerns and the actual completed questionnaires) will be sent to the CCSP central office by June 1, 1998 so that the research committee can make a summary report to the CCSP plenary meeting in mid-July, 1998. Responses to core items in the pre-test questionnaires will be computer tabulated by the CCSP central office, this serving at least three purposes. First it will necessitate the development of a preliminary codebook. Second, it will assist in the evaluation of the pre-tested core questions. Third, it will provide a "test" data set which can be used by the key-teachers in developing the draft survey report and their respective workbooks.
Denominations/groups will receive a digital copy of the final version of the core questions no later than June, 1999 for an anticipated fielding of the questionnaire in January, 2000. It is anticipated that denominations/groups will complete their surveys and submit digital copies of the resulting data sets (and the codebooks for the data sets) to the CCSP office no later than June 1, 2000. Upon receipt of each denomination/group’s data set the CCSP office will merge it with zip-code based census data for each congregation, and return a copy of this merged data set to the denomination/group for its own use. The CCSP office will also produce an all-group-aggregated data set and produce a set of preliminary tabulations of this aggregated data set for the review and discussion of all CCSP representatives meeting in plenary during July, 2000. Subsequently, the CCSP office will produce a final version of the all-group-aggregated data set, copies of which will be: (A) sent to each denomination/group; (B) used by the CCSP coordinating office to produce tabulations and analyzes for the centralized project publications elaborated in the dissemination plan (report, book and press releases); and (C) made available, at cost, to other researchers and interested parties as elaborated in the dissemination plan.
There is a growing consensus among scholars and practitioners that the life and mission of congregations cannot be adequately understood apart from the social context within which a congregation is embedded. To provide both a reminder of the importance of the social context and concrete data on the most geographically immediate social context of congregations, the survey data from each congregation will be merged with data from the U.S. census for the congregation’s zip-code. Specific census items have yet to be determined, but will include, at a minimum, 1990 and 2000 statistics that parallel demographic items about a congregation’s members contained in the core questionnaire (e.g., race/ethnicity, educational level, age profile, etc). Because detailed data from the 2000 census will not be publicly available until late 2001, the 2000 data initially purchased for merging with our congregational survey data will have to be projections made by our selected census vendor based on 1990 census figures and the various supplements the vendor uses in making its projections. The use of such projections is common practice in planning based on census data, but it does mean that one of the criteria in choosing a vendor will be the quality of its projections. Every attempt will be made to secure funding, after the close of the currently proposed project, to purchase and merge actual 2000 U.S. census data into the all-group-aggregate data set.
Cost, licensing and logistical considerations dictate our plan to have the census data purchased by and merged with the denominational/group congregational data by the CCSP central office (as opposed to providing each denomination/group its own census data and letting it merge it with its survey data). Considerations of cost, simplicity and ease of interpretation lie behind our decision to use zip-codes as our geographic unit. Some of the CCSP denominations/groups may also, at their own expense, geo-code their surveyed congregations so that congregational specific geographic units can be specified and related census data obtained. Although this is the only geographic approach that has clear substantive advantages over the use of zip-codes, it is simply beyond the capacity (and relatedly, beyond the financial resources) of many of the participating denominations/groups for use in our cooperative effort.
Each denomination/group will survey a stratified random sample of congregations, the sample drawn using commonly developed guidelines intended to produce a sampling error of, at a minimum, plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Denominations/groups may opt for a larger sample (and therefore lower sampling error) for their own purposes, but they will only receive matching grant funds for the minimum sampling size. Stratified random sampling is preferable over simple random sampling because it offers the potential of reducing sampling error (because it increases a sample’s representativeness in terms of the stratification variables, which also can be of political/interpretive benefit). Although specific stratification specifications have yet to be developed it is anticipated that they will include, as a minimum, 9 U.S. Census geographic regions and 4 size of membership and/or worship attendance categories. Denominations/groups may opt for more refined strata, but they must be aggregateable up to the minimum, common guidelines for purposes of the all-group-aggregate data set. For example, Roman Catholics have expressed an interest in using dioceses as their unit of geographic stratification, the dioceses aggregated up to the 9 U.S. census regions for purposes of the all-group-aggregate data set.
Most participating CCSP denominations/groups can produce an inclusive, clean, existing address list of congregations which is either electronically or manually stratifiable by region and size. In such cases the drawing of their sample will be relatively straight forward. We do know, however, that there are at least a few denominations/groups for which the production of such a stratifiable, sampling population frame will be more challenging — e.g., Muslims, National Baptists. The CCSP office will work with such groups as needed to draw their samples. Relatedly, the second major purpose of the supplemental research funds included in the proposal budget is to support the need for exceptional sample development situations.
Assuming random sampling, the primary determinant of sample size is the degree of tolerable sampling error, and a secondary determinant in our research undertaking is the total number of congregations a denomination/group has. Table 1 ( p. 14) presents the minimum sample size we will use for various size denominations/groups and the number of denominations/ groups we anticipate within the various size categories. (The table also contains the calculations we have used in determining the grant provided match for survey research costs, which we elaborate in section F below.) The sample sizes reflect our desire for a +/- 4% sampling error at the 95% confidence level for individual denomination/group returns, assuming a 65% return rate. Such a sampling error is readily acceptable for each denomination/group as a whole, but quickly increases for any intra-denominational analysis of congregational sub-groups. However, one of the important benefits of the cooperative effort is that in aggregating congregations across denominations/groups one has the potential of conducting significant analyzes of types of congregations that would appear in too few number in any individual sample for meaning statistical study.
From the perspective of the total number of congregations represented by all the denominations/groups participating in the CCSP, our approach to sampling amounts to stratifying by denomination/group and then sampling disproportionate to denomination/group strata size. This is unproblematic for the analysis of any given denomination/group’s data. However, for the all-group-aggregate data set it will require the calculation and inclusion of weights to adjust for the otherwise disproportionate-to-denomination/group-strata size. Such weighting procedures for disproportionate-to-size strata are common statistical practice, but they do require conscious attention.
D. All-Group-Aggregate Data Set
As noted above, the CCSP office will combine all the denominations/groups’ core question, survey data and related zip-code based census data to produce an all-group-aggregated data set. A copy of the final version of the all-group-aggregated data set will be sent to each CCSP denomination/group. The data set also will be used by the CCSP central office to produce tabulations and analyzes for the centralized project publications elaborated in the dissemination plan (report, book and press releases). And, the data set will be made available, at cost, to other researchers and interested parties as elaborated below. Five years after the completion of the project the data set will be placed in a publicly accessible data archive.
Although an exacting, labor intensive and complex task, production of the aggregated data set is a rather mechanical process, including the development of denomination/group weights required to use the combined individual denomination/group data sets as representative of all CCSP participant congregations (as discussed above). The labor intensity and complexity of the task is compounded by the necessity of producing an accompanying codebook that includes details of individual denomination/group sampling procedures, return rates and adaptations of core question wordings.
A major substantive and political issue related to the production and use of the aggregate data set is the use of denomination/group identifiers in the publicly distributed data set and/or public publications based on it. Politically, it is unlikely that several denominations/groups would participate if their congregations’ could be identified as belonging to their denomination/group in the aggregated data set or was identified as belonging to their denomination/group in public reports. Substantively, the lack of denomination/group identification removes a variable of academic and public interest from the data set and/or reports. Indeed, the lack of denominational identification in the data sets and reports related to the Independent Sectors’ two national survey’s of congregations was a frequent criticism. In order to balance the desire for anonymity with the desire to "know," we will:
Permit individual denominations/groups the option of not being specifically identified in the all-group-aggregate data set and any publications based on it; but,
We will include one or more, constructed variables in the all-group-aggregate data set that combine denominations/groups into aggregated sub-groups, such variables being available for use in public publications. The specific variables to be used have yet to be determined and will be negotiated by the CCSP in plenary and among the CCSP office and individual denominations/groups. Possibilities suggested so far include, for example, theologically liberal/moderate/conservative; numerically growing/stable/declining; established in the U.S. prior to 1800/during the 1800s/during the 1900s; polity; primary emphasis in worship.
E. Research Personnel And Advisory Structure
David A. Roozen, co-director of Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research (resume attached) will have overall management and coordination responsibility for the research component of the CCSP. Specific personal responsibilities will include:
Chairing and staffing the Research Committee;
Constructing the all-group-aggregated data set;
Conducting the data analyzes and tabulations originating in the CCSP central coordinating office;
Co-authoring the project report and books originating in the CCSP central coordinating office; and
Assisting Carl Dudley in the overall administration of the grant and management of the project.
Developing the core questionnaire and distributing digital copies to participant denomination/group research representatives;
Developing and distributing sampling, follow-up and coding guidelines and protocols;
Negotiating individual denomination/group adaptations of the core questionnaire;
Providing and/or securing assistance to denominations/groups which have
special sampling and/or return rate problems;
Securing the zip-code based, U.S. census data set;
Administering the academic papers competition (discussed in the dissemination section);
Locating the all-group-aggregate data set in a publicly accessible data archive.
In addition to Roozen, the Research Committee will consist of 5 CCSP research representatives. The committee will meet during the spring and fall of 1998, 1999 and 2000, the fall meetings in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Religious Research Association. The CCSP research representatives will meet in plenary for two days of mutual consultation and a day of consultation with the CCSP key teachers during each of the summers 1998, 1999 and 2000. Major items on the research agenda for the summer plenaries include: 1998 — review of core questionnaire pre-test and preliminary review of sampling procedures; 1999 — review of sampling procedures, guidelines for enhancing questionnaire return rates and coding procedures; 2000 — discussion of preliminary findings. The possibility and desirability of two or more denominations/groups working together to conduct their surveys has been a strand of conversation throughout our planning process, and we know that at least a few groups have informally talked about such partnerships. Given that the questionnaire pre-test marks the transition from research design to actually conducting research, we will also use the summer 1998 research plenary meeting to push for the formalization of such partnerships.
F. Denominational/Group Contribution To Survey Costs
A condition of participation in the project is that a denomination/group provide staff time and direct costs (or funding for sub-contracting as needed) for at least half of the cost of its common core survey, plus all of the costs of its supplemental questions to the core questions, supplements to minimum sample sizes, staff time for its research representatives to participate in committee and plenary meetings, and staff travel costs to plenary meetings. Grant funds will be provided to cover travel, room and board for committee meetings; to cover room and board for plenary meetings; and to match staff and direct survey costs, up to a maximum match based on the formula used in the construction of Table 1.
The "matching" formula used in Table 1 is based on and necessitated by the fact that, while survey staff time (labor costs) can be assumed to be invariant, minimum sample sizes required to meet the project’s sample error goal of +/- 4% at the 95% confidence level will vary according to the total number of congregations in a denomination/group. Several CCSP research offices/organizations were polled to determine the $6,500 fixed labor cost and $8.00 per-sampled-congregation cost used in the formula. Sample size times $8.00, plus $6,500, equals "Total Survey Cost Per Group." "Total Survey Cost Per Group" divided by 2 equals the "Maximum $ Match Per Group" (the second from the right column in Table 1). As can be seen in the table below, this maximum, grant-provided match ranges from $5,392 for our smallest denominations/groups to $7,588 for our largest denominations/groups. The formula, including its pre-set amounts of $8.00 per sampled congregation and $6,500 labor costs, will be used to determine each denomination/group’s maximum grant match, regardless of the denomination/group’s actual survey costs. If a denomination/group’s actual costs are more than this, it will only receive the maximum match established by the formula. If a denomination/group’s costs are less than this, it will only receive half of its actual costs.
G. Dissemination to Academic Research Constituencies
The CCSP all-group-aggregated data set will be the most extensive national survey of congregations in the United States, and the most comprehensive in terms of denominations/groups available for meaningful statistical analysis, coverage of different dimensions of congregational life and, because of the total number of congregations in the data set (upwards to 16,000 to 20,000), sub-groups of congregations available for meaningful statistical analysis. As such, the data set should be an invaluable resource to a wide range of scholars for secondary analysis. At least the following three strategies will be used to make the data set available to the academic community, publicize its availability within the academic community and/or show the relevance of congregations to the research interests of various academic fields. These are, of course, in addition to the variety of church- and public-oriented strategies elaborated in the dissemination section of the proposal.
First, at least one session of papers utilizing the data set will be organized for the 2001 joint annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and Religious Research Association. And paper presenters will be encouraged to seek the publication of revised versions of their papers in appropriate academic journals.
Second, the CCSP central coordinating office will initiate, in the latter half of 2000, an "academic papers competition." The competition will solicit proposals within each of at least eight different academic fields for use of the all-group-aggregate data set. The best proposal in each field will receive a copy of the all-group-aggregate data set as soon as it is available, plus a $1,000 honorarium, conditioned upon the submitter’s commitment to present a paper based on an analysis of the CCSP all-group-aggregate data set at a professional meeting related to one’s academic field and commitment to seek publication of this paper in an academic journal related to one’s academic field. The intent of the multiple-field approach is, perhaps obviously, to make the data set visible in fields beyond the sociology of religion. A final selection of academic fields has yet to be made, but already suggested possibilities include: organizational studies, social work, non-profit organizations, philanthropy, urban studies, rural studies, theology, ethnic studies, theological education, and the full range of "practical" theological fields (e.g., Christian education, worship, preaching, "church" administration, etc).
Third, five years after the completion of the grant the all-group-aggregated data set will be located in a publicly accessible data archive. By this time, on the one hand, the two above noted strategies will, hopefully, have built at least some momentum of anticipation for public access to the data. On the other hand, a five year lag in public accessibility, although less than ideal from a scholarly perspective, is necessary to provide CCSP participants some sense of proprietary investment for using the data they have gathered.
Since the Cooperative Congregational Study Project was initiated by church oriented denominational staff, the initial focus was on practical research to provide information that is helpful to local congregations and to the organizational structures that support them. In the vision statement written by participants (see attached), participants emphasized the issues that would strengthen congregational life, which proved to appeal to the radically different faith groups that have joined this interfaith research coalition. The same basic issues that guided the development of the survey (listed above) have also shape our dissemination strategy. Because of their importance, we reiterate:
The spiritual, organizational and statistical vitality of congregations;
The variety and style of worship — the foundational act of religious gathering;
The variety of congregational activities and programs which nurture faith and provide opportunities for the expression of faith;
Levels of participation and the characteristics of participants;
Strategies congregations use to reach new members and raise financial resources;
Characteristics of clergy and lay leadership;
How congregations relate to other congregations, to denominational structures and to other institutions in their communities such as schools, homes and hospitals;
To most effectively utilize the survey results we envision an integrated dissemination strategy to reach three broad target groups: (1) the congregational and denominational leaders of participating religious bodies, (2) the news media and the general public it serves, and (3) academic and research communities interested in religious research.
To reach the first and primary target group, we adopted a strategy of dissemination that is parallel to our research approach. Just as we asked for an insider from each denomination/group to serve as coordinator of research within their own group, in the same way we asked each participating denomination/group to identify a key teacher who would be responsible to develop and implement a plan to help congregations and their supporting religious structures to utilize the research in ways appropriate to that religious group. We expect the key teachers to meet annually as a group, to work with other key teachers in areas of their interests, and to work with the researcher in their own denomination/group.
The primary task of the key teacher is to help the congregations and the organizational connections of his or her denomination/group engage and benefit from the results of the survey. In all but the smallest denominations, key teachers must be "teachers of teachers," i.e., they must develop a plan that involves the culture and organization of their denomination/group to disseminate and utilize the survey results. We invite key teachers to approach this in two ways: how do organizations learn, and what can the survey responses teach them? Working with consultants and specialists, key teachers will examine how congregations and their denominational structure are learning organizations, develop an appropriate plan to utilize the project’s survey research, and seek organizational support for dissemination of this information in congregations and their supporting structures. Key teachers will also work in partnership with researchers to assist in pretesting the survey instrument, to design workbooks and other materials that make use of our survey questions to address pressing congregational issues, to develop a format for the research report that will exhibit congregational contributions to the community, denominational differences of faith and practice, and general issues that would be of interest to participants, academics, and the general public. We have identified the tasks of key teachers in rough chronological order during the grant period.
A. Pre-testing the Survey and Defining the Setting Winter-Spring, 1998
In this formative phase of research design, key teachers are asked to work with researchers in each participating group during the pre-testing of their respective survey instrument (winter-spring, 1998) to enable them together to refine the core questionnaire and optional supplementary questions that would be most helpful to their congregations. In particular, we ask this denominational/group team to review the core draft to be sure that it addresses the most significant issues; to identify the questions that provide information on these issues; to review and amend the language to be appropriate for their religious culture; to identify desired additional information and to formulate supplementary questions; and generally to share in implementing the survey pretest and reviewing the results.
In addition, in the spring of 1998 key teachers will examine their constituent congregations and denominational connections as learning organizations. In this preliminary study, key teachers should identify the number and characteristics of congregations in their religious group, and describe the variety of ways in which these congregations engage the world, process information, and change to meet new conditions. Key teachers will be asked to describe in brief and imaginative ways how these congregations might engage and utilize the survey results.
B. Focus on Helping Congregations Summer 1998 to Summer 1999
Summer Conference: The focus of the year from the summer meeting in 1998 to a similar event in 1999 will be on developing tools and procedures to utilize survey results with congregations in each participating group. A plenary summer meeting of key teachers and researchers is scheduled for July, 1998. In this three day meeting, which mixes professional disciplines and denominational differences, the key teachers will address two areas. First, together with researchers they will review the results of pre-testing the draft survey. They will begin to organize responses to specific questions in ways that address significant congregational issues such as leadership, worship, fund raising, and sustaining members. Based on this initial activity, groups will be asked to continue through the year to develop materials that will be useful for work in congregations and with congregational leaders.
Second, key teachers will meet as a group with experienced leadership to share their initial descriptions of their congregations and denominational/group as learning organizations and explore optional strategies that might be used to reach their constituencies . Throughout the year they will be encouraged to refine and develop their plans to utilize survey data.
Workbooks: From the fall of 1998 through the spring of 1999 key teachers will be asked to work in interfaith teams (initiated at the summer conference) to concentrate on twelve congregational issues that are addressed in the survey. Meeting by email and with help from specialist/consultants and with CCSP staff , these teams will draft and field test "workbooks" and procedures that would utilize the survey data (when it is available in 2000) to help congregations deal with these issues. The teams will complete a first draft of these materials in the spring to be shared with researchers and key teachers in the summer meeting, 1999.
Separate Plans: During the 1998-99 year we will also work individually and in clusters of key teachers to help them develop an appropriate utilization plan to engage congregational and denominational leaders within their own constituency. These plans should include the congregations to be reached, the communication procedures to be use, the leadership to be involved, the preparation and materials that will be needed, the costs and resources available, and the standards and procedures to evaluate this engagement. Each participating denomination/group should be able to build on prior experience within their own group and from others to develop a plan and to estimate necessary resources (staff, meetings, publications, etc.) to make the best use of the survey data after 2000.
C. Develop Broad Structural Support and Cooperation 1999-2000
Summer Conference: The emphasis in the year 1999-2000 will be on developing the broad base within and among the participating groups to support the utilization of this information in congregational life. In July, 1999, we plan a plenary gathering for key teachers and researchers with two goals. First, the key teachers will meet as a group to review and consolidate their tasks from the previous year. This includes adopting the workbooks and other materials that sub-groups have developed to address particular congregational issues; and sharing their distinctive strategic plans that each have developed for utilizing data within their constituent congregations.
In the 1999 plenary meeting the key teachers and researchers will also develop a strategy for interpreting congregational data to the denomination/group support systems and to the general public, especially using the existing communication channels and information services within their group and in the public media. Based on the questions in the survey instrument they will design the format of the "project report" that will highlight congregational contributions to the general society, suggest denominational differences in faith and religious expression, and provide data about basic issues of broad religious and public interest.
Plans into action: In the year 1999-2000 the key teachers and researchers will begin to translate their plans into programs of research, analysis, and reporting. Although the staff of several participating groups are prepared to customize the generic workbooks and reports to fit their particular religious culture, most have indicated an interest of organizing their work together in the final year of research implementation with others of common traditions to effect economies of scale in publishing, reporting information, and consulting with congregations on a regional and local level. We also anticipate creative combinations across significantly different faith traditions to maximize the unique interfaith dimensions of this project in the reporting and utilizing of these data at many levels and on a variety of issues.
D. Preliminary Data and Electronic Consulting Summer and Fall 2000- Winter 2001
Summer Conference: The focus of the third year will be utilization of data. In the summer of 2000 the key teachers and researchers will gather to receive preliminary data from the survey. This event provides the first opportunity to enter preliminary data into the pre-designed workbooks and report forms to allow researchers and key teachers begin the process of amending these materials to facilitate their usefulness with congregations.
In addition, in the summer conference in 2000 we will introduce several forms of electronic networks for data access for use by congregations, denominations, press and others. We are currently exploring several options provided by religious organizations and commercial sources. Since legal complications of publishing rights and rapid changes in technology make planning difficult, we have located this task in the third year of this project to give maximum time to develop the variety of choices in which participants have expressed interest.
National Interfaith Kickoff: If additional funding can be secured, we will plan a national interfaith training session and press conference with major religious leaders in November, 2000. Such an event would allow the leaders of participating religious groups together to release the Project Report and highlight particularly interesting results of the survey . We could also use the forum for key teachers and specialists to train interpretation teams for work with congregations, and we could publish the workshop workbooks for interpretation throughout participating groups.
Follow-up: After the initial release of the research report and distribution of the workbooks on congregational issues, we hope to continue to assist key teachers and clusters of participating groups in their dissemination/utilization of research data as funding allows. In addition to web site and other electronic access, the CCSP staff will be responsible for timed release of research findings in focused news stories, academic papers, and special interest reports for specific audiences and publications.
E. Utilization Staff and Advisory Committee
Carl S. Dudley, co-director of the Center for Social and Religious Research of Hartford Seminary (resume attached), will be responsible for organization and coordination of the utilization of survey results developed in the CCSP, and share with David A. Roozen in the oversight of the project as a whole. Specific responsibilities include:
Chairing and staffing the Utilization Advisory Committee
Identifying and maintaining communication with participating groups
Securing leadership for plenary conferences
Organizing and managing plenary and planning conferences
In cooperation with Utilization Advisory Committee
Planning themes, schedules and leadership for plenary events
Reviewing workbooks etc. that focus on congregational issues
Assisting key teachers in plans for utilization in their denomination/group
Encouraging clusters of denominations/groups for implementation of plans
Developing electronic data access for congregations and others
Developing and overseeing distribution of information to the public and press
Co-authoring and/or overseeing workbooks, reports, and other brief publications
Co-authoring two books, one popular/academic and the other on congregational practices
Maintaining financial records and submitting timely reports
Writing and submitting timely narrative reports
F. Denomination/group Contributions:
The denominations/groups that have shared in developing this project range from those with highly sophisticated research practices to groups that have never participated in social research, or data gathering of any sort. We expect that not all of the groups now in the conversation will ultimately agree to participate, and a few others may join. In this broad mix, our primary system of communication and management is through summer conferences, with additional network building through religious professional research societies. As we expand from the base of researchers to incorporate an equal number of key teachers, the size and diversity of our group will challenge our capacity to keep on course. We hope to keep project focus through professional and personal associations that develop in our three summer conferences, through follow-up exercises in shared design of workbooks and utilization strategies, through the work of the Utilization and Research committees, and through a variety of personal contacts by CCSP staff.
At the same time, as the project develops, beyond the costs for research (above) these participating groups will need to invest additional resources into dissemination and utilization as the results of the survey become available. In 1998 their contributions will be primarily in the cost of transportation to meetings and staff time for meetings and follow-up assignments, such as developing a general plan and working with others on particular congregational issues (e.g., workbooks). In 1999 their investment will increase as the key teachers try to involve denomination/group leaders in support of plans to customize, publish and utilize survey data.
The United Methodist Church leaders anticipate spending $55,000 to edit, publish and distribute the survey results, in addition to professional time for planning and utilization in national, regional, and local meetings. Beyond their own groups, many participants are fascinated by the possibilities of developing ecumenical and inter-faith gatherings to explore the data in a variety of public and religious settings (while a few are clearly uninterested in such activities). Since the contributions to dissemination and utilization by participating groups will increase as the project progresses, and since these are often obscured by "in kind" contributions of staff and services that are already in place, the total amounts are difficult to estimate. If the projections of the Methodists are any indication, we expect that the direct financial support generated by these 40 participating denominations/groups to utilize the survey results in meetings from the national to the local levels (beyond in kind contributions) will far exceed the total investment provided by the Lilly Endowment.
As an extension of project management, Carl Dudley and David Roozen assume responsibility for organizing and personally writing or supervising the preparation of project related publications. We envision seven kinds of "publications" that serve multiple purposes of research utilization, namely:
Project Report is user friendly 50 page report on congregations as religious institutions for interpretation with secular and religious press, and for wide distribution throughout the public and participating groups. Based on our work in previous summer conferences, the Report will present research findings that are scholarly yet comfortably integrated into consulting strategies with local and national religious leaders. Each participating group will have access to print out a report to compare their particular data with clusters and aggregate profiles in selected areas.
Workbooks on Congregational Issues are based on preparations provided by summer workshops with key teachers and researchers and refined by experts in broad research in the particular area under study. These materials should be used widely in the congregations and among the leaders of participating denominations/groups to better understand and strengthen particular areas of congregational life, such as fund raising, leadership development, member recruitment, volunteer training, and ministry development.
Press releases in 2001-2002 will be coordinated with dates for release of U.S. Government reports from 2000 census, in such areas as demographic composition of congregations, regional changes in population, immigration, etc. These coordinated press releases are designed to maintain public consciousness following the initial information release in the fall of 2000, to support utilization strategies in participating groups in 2001 and beyond.
Articles for academic meetings and journals will be prepared as a conscious strategy to show the relevance of congregational research in such areas as sociology of religion, social work, organizational theory, non-profit organizations, philanthropy, urban or rural studies, theology, history of religious institutions, "church" administration/leadership, theological education, etc (see research section II – G).
A basic book for popular and academic audience on the on the Characteristics of Religious Congregations in U.S. will be written from the research using several of the sources above, to provide primary profiles and cross tabulations on the variety of congregational organization, composition, beliefs, and civil investment.
A more applied book on U.S. Congregational Programs and Practices will be written primarily for congregations and religious leaders also using the material above, addressing such practical issues as spiritual life, "membership" growth, financial support, educational programs, leadership development, contributions to community life, etc.