Research into small groups and spiritual formation in the United States

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 07/01/1991
End Date: 
Thu, 06/30/1994

The Gallup International Institute undertook a three-year study to examine the role of small groups in facilitating the spiritual formation of their members. The project focused on small, formally constituted groups that meet regularly to encourage spiritual discovery, growth, action, and caring among their members. Examples include Bible study groups, prayer fellowships, peace concerns groups, singles fellowships, havurot fellowships among Jews, and 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The researchers hoped to ascertain the extent and variety of involvement in such groups, understand how they function, determine their role in spiritual discovery and growth, and examine the effects of these groups on the churches. Under the direction of Dr. Robert Wuthnow, sociologist at Princeton University, the research team conducted a nationally representative survey to understand how such characteristics as religious faith, belief, knowledge, and practice motivate people to become involved in these groups. The survey was followed by ethnographic research and interviews in 12 selected groups. The project produced two books--a general overview of the study's results and an edited volume of case studies.