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Faith Communities Today   E-Newsletter
Issue 1 March 2010
In This Issue
Featured Article:
American Congregations Study - A Good News Bad News Story
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American Congregations Study 2008: (Full 36 page report, PDF):
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Welcome to the First Edition of Faith Communities Today E-Newsletter 

Faith Communities Today (FACT) is a provider of on-going interfaith research about congregational life in America. This research is conducted by over 25 American faith groups in collaboration with the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary.  

The collaborative group is known as the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP). 

In this newsletter we highlight key findings from our reports and share insights that can positively impact your congregation.  Read on to see the highlights of our just released survey results.

American Congregations Study
A Good News - Bad News Story
walking in corridor


First the Bad News - Over the last few years there has been a slow decline for American Congregations 

American congregations continue to struggle, facing declining attendance at worship, eroding financial health, waning spiritual vitality and increasing uncertainty about their mission and purpose.

These findings are some of the initial conclusions drawn in the "American Congregations Study" a Faith Communities Today 2008 (FACT2008) survey of American congregations. According to the survey analyst David Roozen, "The research indicates areas of concern, but there are also concrete programs that congregations can put into place to increase vitality."  

From 2005 to 2008 fewer congregations report that they are spiritually vital and alive, that they have seen worship attendance growth, or that they have a clear mission and purpose.  Just 19 percent say their current financial health is excellent, down from 31 percent in 2000 (and note the FACT2008 survey predates the market collapse that began late in 2008). The down tick in vitality holds across faith families.

Old-line Protestant congregations confront a special challenge. Their memberships are significantly older than for any other faith family. In fact, 60% of old-line congregations have over a quarter of participants age 65 or older. This is nearly twice as great as for any other faith groups and nearly three times as great as for Evangelical Protestant congregations. One unfortunate corollary of a congregation's age structure is that the more seniors, on average, the lower a congregation's vitality across all of FACT2008's vital signs.

The Good News - Congregational vitality is within your organization's control.  

Several factors can positively impact church vitality: Openness to change, clarity of purpose, vibrant worship, excellent and diverse programming and effectively managing conflict. In addition, FACT research indicates a strong correlation between good clergy leadership and vital congregations.

FACT2008 also points to several rather ordinary things that vital congregations do well. Two examples are hospitality to newcomers and support of lay volunteers. Congregations with greater spiritual vitality are more likely to invite new people to become involved in visitor orientation classes, to take leadership roles in worship, and to become involved in a social ministry. These congregations also are more likely to provide training for volunteers and to recognize their service. "These are easy things to do that can have a positive impact on congregational vitality," states Roozen.

For a free PDF of the entire report go to: www.faithcommunitiestoday.org
American Congregations Study 2008American Congregations 2008 Report Available For Purchase
Interested in purchasing the comprehensive 36 page report?  Single and multiple copy discounts are below.   
Single Copy: $16.00,
including first class postage
5-9 copies: $70.00 ($14.00 each), including first class postage
10-24 copies: $120.00 ($12.00 each), including UPS ground
25+ copies: $250.00 ($10.00 each), including UPS ground
For further information about FACT, or to learn how to join the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership (CCSP), contact David Roozen at roozen@hartsem.edu