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U.S. Congregational Life Survey -- Information for Participating Congregations


Your congregation has been selected to participate in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey. This unique opportunity is not currently available to every congregation. Only a small sample of congregations across the country will be able to take part in this historic event. Your congregation's participation will provide a profile of your worshipers and information about your congregation's vitality in three areas -- faith development, attracting new members, and involvement in the community.

Answers to some of the most common questions about this project are provided below.

What is the U.S. Congregational Life Survey?

On Sunday, April 29th, 2001, 850,000 worshipers in over 3,000 congregations across the U.S. will participate in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey. We're glad your congregation is one of them.

That weekend, everyone who attends worship services there will be asked to take a short survey. We'll provide you with enough surveys so that everyone who is at least 15 years old can complete one. We'll also provide you with pens to use in completing the survey. Since completed surveys will be tabulated by automated scanning equipment, it is important that you use the pens provided. Your package will also include detailed instructions for handing out and collecting the surveys during worship, and a pre-paid label for use in returning completed surveys to us.

What is on the Survey?

The survey asks your worshipers about their involvement in the congregation, their church background, and their personal background. Typical questions about involvement include: "How often do you attend worship here?" and "Do you have a strong sense of 'belonging' to this congregation?" Questions on church background include: "How long have you been going to worship services here?" and "Before you started coming here, were you participating in another congregation?" Other background questions ask worshipers whether or not they are married, if they have children, and the year they were born.

All of the items on the survey can be answered quickly by marking one of the answers we'll provide. We won't ask worshipers to write out their answers, so the survey will be quick and easy to complete. Most people can complete it in about 15 minutes.

What is the Congregational Profile?

In addition, we will ask one leader from the congregation to complete another short survey that asks for background information about the congregation. We don't need to ask every worshiper about things like the size of the congregation, the number of worship services, and the number of staff -- one representative from the congregation can provide that information. Your congregation might choose a pastor, minister, priest, rabbi, or perhaps a lay person to provide this information. You might be the person to fill this survey out.

Like the attender survey, the Congregational Profile can be answered by marking the appropriate answer. Only a few items will ask for a written response -- for example, average worship attendance and the year your congregation was founded. The Congregational Profile can be completed in less than 30 minutes.

What will the Results Show?

The answers to all surveys completed by your congregation -- and by others -- will provide an accurate picture of worshipers and congregations across America. Until now, there has been no such picture. What we have known about congregations in the U.S. in the past is based on studies of small numbers of congregations -- often within a limited geographic area or within a single denomination.

What's In it for You?

Every congregation that participates will get a report that summarizes the answers of those who worship there and compares their responses to those of worshipers across the country. The report will give you information about who worships there in terms of age, gender, marital status, and education level. It will tell you how many are newcomers to the faith and how many have transferred to your congregation from other congregations or other faith traditions. It will give information about the vitality of your congregation in three areas -- attracting new members, involvement in the community, and faith development. The free workbook you'll also receive provides suggestions about how to use the report and suggests tools for positive change based on information in your report.

How Much Time will this Require?

Most worshipers can complete the survey in 15 minutes. We suggest you allow about 20 minutes to introduce and conduct the survey. By shortening the service slightly, the survey can be given without interrupting the flow of worship.

What Will it Cost You?

There are no costs to you or your congregation or worshipers. This project is being supported by generous grants from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and from the Louisville Institute, and by in-kind contributions from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Support from these sources allows us to cover all costs. We will provide you with (1) all of the surveys you'll need, (2) a detailed instruction sheet, and (3) pre-paid shipping labels to send the completed surveys back to us.

How was My Congregation Chosen?

Congregations were selected in one of two ways.

One group of congregations was chosen to be a representative sample of congregations across the United States. We used the General Social Survey (or GSS -- a survey conducted every two years by the National Opinion Research Center -- or NORC) to select the representative sample. GSS. is a random sample of more than 2,000 adults who are representative of the U.S. population. GSS participants are asked a wide range of questions.

In 2000, GSS participants were asked if they attend religious services. If they said "yes," they were then asked the name and location of their place of worship. This is how congregations in the representative random sample came to be nominated. NORC staff then contacted these nominated congregations and invited them to take part in this study.

Other congregations were selected by their denominations. Denominations were invited to draw random samples of their congregations and invite those congregations to participate. These denominational samples will be large enough so that the results are representative of congregations within each denomination. This will allow denominations to compare their "typical" congregation to congregations in other denominations.

Denominations that have agreed to oversample their congregations for participation in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey include: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, Seventh-day Adventist, Roman Catholics, and Church of the Nazarene.

Who Else Will be Participating?

Over 3,000 congregations across the U.S. will be taking part. All together, over 2 million worshipers in four countries will complete surveys. The participating countries are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and England.

When Will this Happen?

The survey is scheduled for Sunday, April 29th, 2001. We ask you to conduct the survey during all worship services conducted that weekend. A few months later after we've tallied the results for all congregations, we will mail you your report and workbook.

Who Will See Your Answers?

The individual responses of your worshipers are completely confidential; no one in your denomination or any other denomination will see your worshiper's answers. You'll send your completed surveys directly back to our research office. We'll use an identification number to help us keep track of your congregation's responses, but individual answers are all confidential -- in fact, we ask worshipers not to put their names on the survey so that they remain anonymous. The report we produce showing your congregation's results will be sent to your congregation only.

What's in it for You?

The report will give you a detailed picture of "who worships here," including your strengths as a congregation and suggestions for future planning. The workbook and video will provide step-by-step instructions on how to understand and use the reports. And it the future, we'll offer other resources -- including, books, web resources, and workshops -- to help you use your results.

When Will You Receive Your Materials?

All materials were packaged during February and March of 2001. In the first few days of April, we put address labels on each box. FedEx will pick up the packages in Louisville, Kentucky on April 12, 2001 and you can expect to receive your materials the following week. If you are missing anything or have any questions about the materials, call us toll-free at 1-888- 728-7228 ext 2040.

What will be Included in Your Packages?

Your packages will include:

How Will You Return Your Completed Surveys?

We will include in your box(es) pre-paid FedEx labels for use in returning surveys to us. Starting Wednesday, May 2, 2001, FedEx will make three attempts over three days to pick up your boxes at the location where they were delivered. If you need to make other arrangements for pick-up (different date or different location), call FedEx directly at 1-888-777-6040 to rechedule.

When Can I Expect to Get Results?

It will take us most of the summer to open and process returned boxes, send the attender surveys to our scanning firm and the other surveys to our data entry firm, tabulate and analyze the results, and prepare report for each of the 2000+ congregations that participated. Our goal is to mail your report to you during the first week of January 2002. That way you'll have a new picture of your congregation to start the new year!

I Have Another Question--How Can I get an Answer?

If you have other questions, please call us toll-free at 1-888-728-7228 ext. 2040. You can also contact us by email at deborahb@ctr.pcusa.org

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Last modified July 3, 2001 by U.S. Congregations Home Page Manager