FACT square logoFaith Communities Today Newsletter 
Issue 11August 2011 

Latest Reports Using Faith Communities Today research:


Holy Toll: The Impact of the 2008 Recession on American Congregations


Five faith groups have released reports on their internal FACT 2010 surveys.


Presbyterian Panel from August 2010 on Compassion, Peace and Justice is now available at this link.


In May LifeWay released research on pastors' views of the environment, churches' use of technology and Americans' experience with the King James Version at www.lifeway.com

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Attracting and Keeping Members: Topic of New Research Summary


The "Insights Into" by Mike McMullen is now available for congregations and professionals who help congregations

Information to help congregations grow

Growth and vitality are a result of the twin processes: recruitment and retention. Clergy and laity of religious congregations struggle to not only bring new members in the door, but also to retain them as contributing participants in the life of the congregation. Previous FACT publications have addressed the question of church growth from many perspectives. For example, see the report on congregational growth at the website. Our latest publication, Insights Into: Attracting and Keeping Congregational Members, offers new insights into growth by focusing specifically on issues of retaining members.  Drawing on recent research and resources clergy, seminarians and congregational leaders can learn to deal constructively with integrating and energizing both new and old congregational participants, an often-forgotten aspect of maintaining healthy religious communities. 

A few of the insights in this new publication include:

  • Work schedules, school activities and competition from other congregations are much greater obstacles to regular participation than locational considerations such as parking or concerns about the neighborhood. Congregations that provide worship and small group activities at multiple times throughout the week will retain active participation from more families.
  • Congregations that are best at integrating new members are also intentional about inviting people into greater involvement. They do not assume it just happens. This seems to be such common sense, yet a surprisingly high number of congregations don't do it. Nearly 40 percent of congregations do not regularly invite new members to worship! Over 40 percent of congregations do not even regularly contact members who have stopped attending! 
  • Larger congregations often have the resources for dramatic and entertaining worship experiences. But research shows this attractive worship must be supplemented by utilitizing small groups. Such groups facilitate the creation of intimate relationships and help retain the ongoing commitment of new members. Small congregations have fewer resources  and less formal mechanisms of social integration, but are better able to welcome the few newcomers who come to them.
  • Congregations that provide training for volunteer leaders and publically recognize the contribution of time and energy are twice as likely to report that they can find people to serve in volunteer roles than congregations do not provide training nor acknowledge volunteers. 

  • Both outreach and retention are strengthened when non-members are invited to participate in volunteer projects sponsored by the congregation.

    A copy of the Insights report is available for download at the FACT website.

    Resources for Attracting and Keeping Members 


    Motivating Your Church: How Any Leader Can Ignite Intrinsic Motivation and Growth by Paul P. Baard and Chris Aridas (2001, Crossroad).    


    12 Steps to Congregational Transformation: A Practical Guide for Leaders by David Laubach (2006, Judson Press).


    Sticky Church by Larry Osborne (2008, Zondervan).


    Growing a Beloved Community: Twelve Hallmarks of a Healthy Congregation by Tom Owen-Towle (2004, Skinner Books).


    Pathway to Renewal: Practical Steps for Congregations by Daniel P. Smith and Mary K. Sellon (2008, Alban Institute).


    The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church's Spectators into Active Participants by Scott Thumma and Warren Bird (2011, Jossey-Bass).


    Growing an Engaged Church: How to Stop 'Doing Church' and Start Being the Church Again from the Gallup Poll Organization (2007, Gallup Press).


    Beyond the Ordinary: Ten Strengths of US Congregations by Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce (2004, Westminster John Knox Press).


    For further information about FACT, or to learn how to join the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership (CCSP), contact David Roozen at roozen@hartsem.edu.