Why congreagtions grow

Mary Francis Schjonberg of ENS has this story:

A plan to recruit and incorporate newcomers, clarity of mission and ministry, contemporary worship, involvement of children in worship, geographic location, a website and the absence of conflict are key factors in why some congregations in America are growing, according to the latest national survey of U.S. faith communities.

The survey, sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP), found that wanting to grow is not enough. Congregations that grow must plan for growth.

“Congregations that developed a plan to recruit members in the last year were much more likely to grow than congregations that had not,” according to a report on the survey written by C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

The survey findings are available in “FACTs on Growth.” The data was taken from the Faith Communities Today 2005 (FACT2005) survey of 884 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. The survey updates results from a survey taken in 2000, and is the latest in CCSP’s series of trend-tracking national surveys of U.S. congregations.

Hadaway told ENS that the survey showed that the average so-called “mainline” congregation was less likely to grow than non-denominational, evangelical congregations. More surprising to many people, Hadaway said, is that Roman Catholic congregations are not growing in a way comparable to the increased number of Roman Catholics in the United States.

The report notes that “when all congregations are combined, there is very little relationship between growth and theological orientation. In fact, the proportion growing is highest on the two end points: predominantly conservative congregations and liberal congregations (growth rates of 38% and 39%, respectively).”

“More important than theological orientation is the religious character of the congregation and clarity of mission and purpose,” the report continues. “Growing churches are clear about why they exist and about what they are to be doing.”

An analysis devoted to Episcopal parishes is here.

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