Giving Voice to Local Churches: New Congregational Studies

Dudley, Carl S. “Giving Voice to Local Churches: New Congregational Studies.” Christian Century 109(24):742-746, August 12-19, 1992.

Carl Dudley, director of the Center for Church and Community Ministries and professor of ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, finds new congregational studies to be an important tool in helping congregations understand themselves as valuable co-interpreters of God and God’s action in the world. Whereas past research of congregations originated from external sources interested in the church’s location and community, newer studies combine statistical data with congregational stories to provide richer profiles about the congregation itself, its beliefs and its vision. Tapping into a congregation’s memory via treasured stories (both “parlor” and “kitchen” stories) enables leaders and members to recognize God’s presence and movement in their collective life and stimulates the people for bold action in their community. This process of discovering their theological identity provides congregations with the resources to dialogue with seminaries and denominations about the work of the church in the world. Those congregations who give voice to their faith are stronger in mission, more articulate in theology, and are beneficial to the seminary and denomination.