Views from pews on strong congregations

Small congregations rank highest in congregational participation
Certain assumptions have long been made about what makes for the strongest congregational life—for example, that megachurches provide the best worship experience or that the best churches generally make children’s ministries a priority.

But a new study by two social scientists shatters many such notions and finds a wide variety in the strengths of the nation’s congregations. “Beyond the Ordinary: Ten Strengths of U.S. Congregations” is the latest phase of published research on results of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey of 2,000 congregations and their 300,000 worshipers taken in April 2001.

Whereas many surveys on congregations have been based on the impressions of a minister or other key leaders, this study determined congregational strengths based on the perspectives of parishioners. “The view from the pew is just different,” said coauthor Cynthia Woolever, professor of sociology at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Connecticut.


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