From Typical Church to Social Ministry: A Study of the Elements which Mobilize Congregations

Dudley, Carl S. “From Typical Church to Social Ministry: A Study of the Elements which Mobilize Congregations.” Review of Religious Research 32(3):195-212, March 1991.

“From Typical Church to Social Ministry,” the 1989 H. Paul Douglass Lecture delivered by Carl Dudley before the Religious Research Association, reports on the rationale, research and challenges of the Church and Community Project, a three-year program supported by the Center for Church and Community Ministries in association with McCormick Theological Seminary. Dudley explains that the project rationale—written in 1986 and based on the assumption that churches, as traditional centers of community identity and concern, must reclaim this role in the face of community disintegration, government cuts to social services, and mounting social needs—offered project managers the opportunity to develop a “research-in-action” model in their study and support of 40 Church and Community social projects in as many congregations in Indiana and Illinois. <p> The article details the project’s two types of research—administrative research and theory-related research—along with their specific research methodologies. Dudley mentions five congregational self-images uncovered by the project’s study of congregational identity: the survivor church, the crusader church, the pillar church, the pilgrim church and the servant church. The article concludes with three challenges the project offers to the study of religious values and behavior: (1) the challenge of integrating the several independent streams of information discovered in the course of the program into a triangulation approach of research; (2) the challenge of increased dialogue between social scientists and religious professionals; and (3) the challenge of helping congregational leaders meet and shape community change.