Tracking the Professional and Economic Outlook of Congregations
NORC’s congregation studies explore America’s places of worship
Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship provide a social and spiritual anchor in the communities that they serve, but they are also economic entities with staff to pay, and debts, income, and properties to manage. Since 1998, when NORC conducted the first wave of data collection for the National Congregations Study (NCS), NORC has examined places of worship from a variety of angles, including the professional and economic. NORC is about to begin the fourth wave of data collection for the NCS in collaboration with Duke University. The study, which is funded primarily by the Lilly Endowment and draws additional support from the John Templeton Foundation and the Pew Research Center, has gathered data on a range of congregational characteristics, including worship activities, finances, staff configurations, and connections with other religious and community groups. The latest wave will also explore such topics as congregations’ social media use, leadership challenges, and wellness activities.
As part of the fourth wave of the NCS, NORC is conducting the National Survey of Religious Leaders (NSRL), the first-ever nationally representative survey of religious leaders from across the religious spectrum that includes part-time, assistant, and specialist ministerial staff in addition to full-time ministerial staff and head clergy. The subjects the NSRL will explore include attitudes and practices related to mental health and the relationship between science and religion, as well as features of the religious leaders’ jobs and careers, including their community and political involvement and their engagement with the larger religious world. In a separate but related study, NORC is conducting the National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices, which will help scholars, clergy, and lay leaders better understand how American congregations receive, manage, and spend resources, as well as their theological, cultural, and practical orientations toward money.