FACT square logoFaith Communities Today Newsletter 
Issue 23First Quarter 2014 



The latest research reports at Faith Communities Today 


FACTs on Worship: 2010 


Virtual Religion:

Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations


FACTs on Growth: 2010 


A Decade of Change in American Congregations--Trends 2000-2010


American Congregations Reach Out to Other Faith Traditions 


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


Plus reports from participating 



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Best Practices is Last Paper in Collection of Case Studies on Engaging Young Adults  


The final paper has been added to the collection of case studies of congregations of all faiths across America that are doing an exceptional job of engaging young adults. The entire project is now available on line and will be published later this year in both eBook and paperback formats.


The last paper is distilled from the entire set of case studies. It identifies and summarizes the best practices for congregations that wish to attract and engage young adults. These can be summarized in a dozen "do's" and four "don'ts."


Congregations should do the following: (1) Start a new congregation or young-adult-only worship group within an existing congregation, or move an existing congregation to a new location. (2) Involve young adults in leadership. (3) Offer a high-quality worship experience that is contemporary in style or refashion traditional worship in new ways. (4) Be intentional about reaching out to young adults. (5) Allow people to bring coffee to worship. (6) Provide food. (7) Sponsor activities that mix socializing with theological reflection. (8) Form friendships with young adults or other young adults. (9) Apply theological principles to everyday-life issues that young adults face. (10) Prioritize metropolitan areas and communities near university campuses. (11) Figure out how to deal with the different types of young adults; still in school/starting careers, single/couples, with/without children. They cannot just be lumped together without some facilitating rationale. (12) Figure out how to deal with  young adults who are aging out of the category in their mid- to late-30s.


Congregations should NOT do the following: (1) Be theologically doctrinaire. (2) Insist that people wear dresses or suits and ties to worship. (3) Expect growth in the number of members or total giving. (4) Expect young adults to sign up for long-term committee work.


This latest paper and the entire set of papers is available online at www.faithcommunitiestoday.org the web site for the Faith Communities Today (FACT) research enterprise.

2015 Survey to Include Focus on Young Adult Ministry
The mid-decade FACT survey of congregations of all religions across America will include a number of new items suggested by reflection on the case studies about congregations which have strong engagement with young adults. When the steering committee for the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP) met in Orlando, Florida, early this year, time was spent reviewing what has been learned from the case studies completed over the past two years. A list was built of questions on this topic that have not been asked in previous surveys in 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2010. The 2015 survey, it was agreed, offers an opportunity to gather new information. It will also include a number of items designed to continue to track trends over the 15 years since the first FACT survey in 2000. And it will include a few new items designed to pursue deeper understanding of growth and vitality in congregations; these as a result of a joint consultation with a group of church growth and vitality staff experts from several Christian denominations at the annual meeting of CCSP last August. A draft instrument will be circulated to collaborating organizations over the next few weeks and a final decision made at the 2014 annual meeting.
FACT is Now on Facebook
If you use what has become the largest social networking web site in the world, check for the Faith Communities Today page and click "Like" so that you can get updates more rapidly as well as join the conversation about items such as the new and information in this newsletter. Go to Facebook and search for "Faith Communities Today." We would also appreciate any suggestions you have. One thing you can do is post announcements of your own research and solicit collaborations in various projects.
Key Trends in American Religion: "Negative Numbers"
An article entitled "Negative Numbers: The decline narrative reaches Evangelicals" was published in the December 11 (2013) issue of Christian Century. It included a lot of data from the report on a decade of trends that was published last year by FACT based on comparison of its major surveys in 2000 2010. Decline in the numbers of members, attendance, giving and congregations has been tracked for decades among Oldline Protestant denominations, but in the last decade has also spread to Evangelical and Conservative Protestant congregations. Except for independent, non-denominational congregations, decline now seems to be general among Christians of all kinds with only a handful of exceptions.
The "nones" (Americans with no religious identity) make up the most rapidly growing segment of the spiritual profile across the country. This was noted in a news story in the October 30 issue of the magazine which included research results from several of the organizations that participate in the FACT research enterprise through CCSP These include the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and LifeWay Research.
Good News for Catholic Seminaries
There is some good news among the negative numbers. CARA reported in October that there has been a 16 percent increase in the number of theology graduate students at Catholic seminaries since 1995 and a 10 percent increase since 2005 with the total 3,649 enrolled for the 2013-14 school year. It will take a while for these new recruits to begin to change things in the parishes where retirement and deaths among Baby Boomer priests continue to reduce the overall pastoral staffing.
A New Major Study on Judaism in America 
Religion News Service (RNS) said it is "the most comprehensive survey of the U.S. Jewish population in more than a decade." The New York Times included a long piece about the study in its October 1 (2013) issue. The Week quoted commentators from Cable New Network, Commentary magazine, Slate and The Jewish Week in its October 18 issue under the "Talking Points" section. This is all about Portrait of American Jews published last fall by the Pew Research Center. Steven M. Cohen, a steering committee member for FACT from Synagogue 3000 agreed with the RNS description and particularly recommended that you read The New York Times piece to get a grasp of the current demographics and dynamics in American Judaism.
New Religions Can Cause Real Conflict
How rough-and-tumble can it get when families feel that they must get a "hired gun" to extract their young-adult children from a "cult" or non-traditional religion? A feature article in the October issue of Harper's gives a detailed profile of a professional "cult infiltrator" who works undercover, nonetheless free lance, to "save you from yourself." The article author stated that "there are now, according to conservative estimates, 2 million adults involved in cults in America." Of course, it is a matter of perspective. Something as well established in western civilization today as Christendom was seen as a deviant, destabilizing underground organization two millennia ago.
FACT Report Quoted by Prime Time Comedy Show
It is unclear precisely where this item falls in the study of religion in America, but the FACT report on a decade of change was mentioned during the Monday, March 10, Stephen Colbert Report on the Comedy Central cable channel. Perhaps we need a discussion of precisely what standards of scholarship are involved?
For further information about FACT, or to learn how to join the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership (CCSP), contact David Roozen at roozen@hartsem.edu.