Faith Communities Today (Cooperative Congregational Studies Project)

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Wed, 04/01/1998
End Date: 
Sat, 06/30/2001

Faith Communities Today (FACT), the research and educational program of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Project (CCSP) at Hartford Seminary, represented the largest, most comprehensive survey of congregations and other faith groups ever conducted in the United States. Directed by professors Carl Dudley and David Roozen, the study sought to generate an integrated, inclusive, and coherent picture of congregational life at the beginning of the 21st century. Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and other faith groups contributed to the study. More than 14,000 congregations from 42 denominations representing a total of 260,000 congregations nationwide (roughly 80% of all local faith communities in the US) participated in the survey. The survey data applied to about 95% of the nation’s congregational participants in view of the fact that most of the denominations and faith groups taking part in FACT were among the largest in the US. <p> Two components comprised the study’s methodology. First, the project assembled a team of researchers from participating denominations and faith groups to develop a core questionnaire that included 200 questions covering the broad areas of worship and identity, location and facilities, internal and mission oriented programs, leadership and organizational dynamics, participants, and finances. Participating groups also conducted their own surveys of sample congregations. Researchers shared basic findings with each other and to release the aggregate data through the FACT organization. Second, select teachers in each participating group worked on ways to gather and share the information within their denominations in order to strengthen their congregations. Project coordinators and participants agreed to place the aggregate data in a publicly-accessible archive five years after the study ended. <p> The findings included the following: (1) half of the congregations in the US had fewer than 100 regularly participating adults and just over half were located in small town and rural settings; (2) congregations reported that clarity of purpose resulted in vital church life; (3) congregations with a strong commitment to social justice and community outreach were more likely to be growing than were other congregations; (4) the use of new instruments (such as the electronic keyboard) and new musical styles in worship often indicated congregational vitality, membership growth, and financial stability, as well as a radical shift in authority from creeds and human reason to the Holy Spirit; (5) congregational outreach programs provided a national, personal network of human services extending to virtually every community; and (6) denominational loyalty, focused organization and high moral standards were strongly associated with financial health.