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U.S. Congregations:
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A Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations:
Building Outside Connections

How do PC(USA) congregations connect to the community and to non-members? Outside Connections consist of inviting others to attend, caring for neighbors, and welcoming new people.

  • Inviting Others

    Do PC(USA) worshipers invite others to attend worship services? In the past 12 months, less than half of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations (47%) invited a friend or relative who does not attend a congregation to their worship services. This is about the same as the average congregation where 46% asked someone to attend worship services.

  • Reaching Out

    How many worshipers contribute to their congregation's outreach or evangelism efforts? In PC(USA) congregations, 18% join in activities to reach out to the wider community. This percentage is only slightly higher than the national picture where 13% report being involved in evangelism or outreach activities.

    Inviting Others

    Q: Do you regularly take part in any activities of this congregation that reach out to the wider community?

  • The Congregation's Inviting Activities

    From a list of 14 possible activities, a typical congregation in the U.S. reports using six strategies to reach out to non-members in the previous year. Nationally, the most common strategies are encouraging people in the congregation to invite someone new (reported by 90% of congregations), mailing a letter to visitors (66%), mailing newsletters or flyers (66%), and advertising in newspapers or magazines (51%). Presbyterian congregations use similar strategies at similar rates. On average, PC(USA) congregations listed seven outreach strategies. The most common are: encouraging people to invite others (87%), mailing visitors a letter (84%), mailing newsletters (74%), placing an ad in newspaper or magazine (60%), calling people who visited the church (52%), visiting people who visited the church (48%), and placing an ad in the phone book (45%).

  • Serving the Community

    Are PC(USA) worshipers involved in community service, social justice, or advocacy activities? About half of PC(USA) worshipers take part in service or advocacy activities. Almost one-third overall join in community service activities organized through their congregation (30% in PC(USA) congregations take part in such groups). Even more (43% in PC(USA) congregations) participate in social service or advocacy groups not connected to their congregation. This is another area where Presbyterians excel. Just 19% of worshipers overall are involved in service or advocacy through their congregation, and 31% serve their communities through groups not connected to their congregation.

    Community Service

    Q: Are you involved in any community services, social service, or advocacy groups?

  • Good Neighbors; Good Citizens

    Worshipers in Presbyterian pews are especially good neighbors and good citizens. They are more likely to have prepared or given food for someone outside their family or congregation, made a contribution to a charitable organization other than their congregation, voted in the last presidential election, and worked on community problems or issues. Given that just 50% of the American adult population voted in the last election, it is particularly noteworthy that worshipers in general, and Presbyterians in particular, voted at such high rates.

    Prepared or gave food 49% 58%
    Loaned money 30% 23%
    Helped someone find a job 23% 18%
    Cared for someone who was sick 22% 22%
    Contributed to charitable organization other than their congregation 73% 82%
    Voted in last presidential election 76% 86%
    Worked on solving community problem 21% 26%
    Contacted official about public issue 19% 24%

  • Welcoming New People

    How many new people attend Presbyterian worship services? Three in ten of those attending worship services at PC(USA) congregations have been coming for five years or less about the same as the national figure (34%). Visitors make up 3% of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations, somewhat less than the national average of 6% of worshipers who are visitors.

    Length of Attendance

    Q: How long have you been going to worship services or activities at this congregation?

  • Knowing New People

    What type of faith background is typical of the new people in PC(USA) congregations? New people (those attending five years or less) come from four different faith backgrounds: First-timers (8% in PC(USA) congregations) are those who have never regularly attended anywhere; Returnees (27%) are those who are coming back after not attending anywhere for several years; Switchers (36%) are those who previously participated in another congregation with a different faith tradition; and Transfers (30%) are those who were participating in another PC(USA) congregation immediately prior to attending their current PC(USA) congregation. Presbyterian congregations do a better job than other types of congregations in attracting Returnees and Switchers, but all types of congregations have difficulty attracting First-timers.

    Types of New People

    New People: Attending for five years or less

  • Getting There

    Do worshipers come from the immediate community or do they travel some distance to attend? PC(USA) congregations are neighborhood churches more than half of people in PC(USA) congregations (62%) take 10 minutes or less to get to worship services, and nearly everyone in PC(USA) congregations (91%) travels 20 minutes or less to attend services. Across all American congregations, 88% arrive in 20 minutes or less.

Go to: Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations: Identity Connections

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Copyright 2002 Research Services. All rights reserved.

Last modified July 12, 2002 by U.S. Congregations Home Page Manager