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Church launches nationwide congregational life survey
Results of 75,000 survey participants will help congregations learn about themselves while creating accurate national portrait

3/8/2006
[ENS/Church Pension Group]  The Episcopal Church and the Church Pension Group (CPG) are collaborating in a historical research project known as the Episcopal U.S. Congregational Life Survey.

The study will be coordinated by the groups' research staffs and facilitated by U.S. Congregations, a religious research organization that conducts the ecumenical U.S. Congregational Life Survey.

"This is a strategic opportunity for congregations to learn more about themselves while contributing to a significant historical research study that will benefit our Church," said Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold in an invitational letter that was recently sent to 800 Episcopal parishes and missions. "Your participation will be valuable to your congregation, your diocese, and the Episcopal Church."

"We welcome this opportunity to collaborate with the Episcopal Church Center in support of the Church," said T. Dennis Sullivan, president of CPG.

The U.S. Congregational Life Survey is a highly respected ongoing national survey of worship participants. The questions that will be posed to the members of Episcopal congregations are standard questions that have been asked of thousands of people over a wide spectrum of denominations. For example:

  • To what extent do the worship services or activities of this congegation help you with everyday living?
  • Over the last year, how much have you grown in your faith?
  • Do you agree or disagree: "My spiritual needs are being met in this congregation or parish?"

Congregations were selected at random, and include communities of  various sizes in rural, suburban and city locations. "Because only a few hundred Episcopal parishes and missions are been selected to participate, their input is vital to help insure that the overall survey results will reflect congregational life in all Episcopal congregations and among our members and participants," explained Dr.Matthew Price, CPG's director of analytic research.

"We hope to get 500 churches to participate--which would generate around 75,000 surveys from congregants," added Dr. Kirk Hadaway, director of research for the Episcopal Church. "This would constitute a sample-based census of Episcopal church attendees, and it would also generate great deal of information about the churches where they attend."

Each congregation's response will be useful in two ways. First, it will provide an opportunity for that congregation to learn more about its members and visitors. The detailed materials each participating congregation will receive after the survey has been completed will help it better understand its participants, its strengths and the factors that make it unique, the areas where change is needed, and its options for the future. Each congregation will also receive a copy of "Beyond the Ordinary: Ten Strengths of U.S. Congregations," by Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce.

Second, every response is important in helping to create an accurate national portrait of those who attend Episcopal churches and missions.

General Convention has asked, on numerous occasions, for a full census, and the portrait generated by this survey will help with that understanding. In fact, in direct response to Convention resolutions in 2000 and 2003, the expected 75,000 survey participants nationwide will serve as the first sample-based census of active Episcopal Church members and attendees.

Invitations were sent to parishes and missions in late December, and the results of the survey should be available in the fall of 2006.