American Congregational Giving Study, Member Questionnaires, 1993

Data Archive > U.S. Surveys > Religious Groups > Members or Leaders > Other > Summary


No church is entirely satisfied with the level of financial support that it receives from its members. For this reason, the Lilly Endowment commissioned a nation-wide study of giving in U.S. churches, which came to be known as the American Congregational Giving Study. One aspect was a five denomination study of church members which included: Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist Convention, Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). A total of 30 households from each of the 125 congregations were studied.

The congregations were chosen from nine sampling regions, one in each of the nine U.S. census regions. Field workers personally visited each congregation in the sample. They had two tasks. First, they assisted the pastor in the completion of a Congregational Profile, which summarized the major socioeconomic characteristics, beliefs, programs and finances of the congregation. Second, they selected a random sample of 30 congregation members. Each of these was sent a Lay Questionnaire, which asked members about their personal religious beliefs, opinions about both their congregation and denomination and their personal socioeconomic characteristics. The data were collected into two separate data files, one containing the congregational profiles (ACGSCONG) and the other containing the responses from the member questionnaires (ACGSMBRS). The data from each congregational profile and that congregation's member questionnaires are easily merged through their common congregational id (Variable name CONGID).

Data File
Cases: 10,902
Variables: 63
Weight Variable: MWEIGHT
Data Collection
Date Collected: 1993
Funded By
The Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Collection Procedures
Self-administered questionnaire
Sampling Procedures
Sample and Population:
The sampling universe consisted of members of all U.S. congregations in each of 5 denominations: Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist Convention, Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).

The sample size was limited to 30 households from each of the 125 congregations in each of the 5 denominations for a total of 18,750 households. Nine sampling clusters, one in each of the nine U.S. census regions, aligned to the approximate geographic boundaries of Catholic dioceses, were selected. The sample was stratified by region, based on the portion of the denomination's congregations in each census region. In some regions the sample called for studying only one or two congregations in a particular denomination. Because of the expense and the difficulty of getting a random sample in such a situation, it was decided to require a minimum of 4 congregations per denomination in any region, and to assign smaller numbers to neighboring regions. Field workers randomly selected 30 households from each congregation to receive the member questionnaire. In those congregations with fewer than 30 households, all of the households received the questionnaire. Households that did not return a completed questionnaire within a two-week period were sent a second copy of the survey.

Response Rate:
61.2 percent of the members surveyed returned usable completed questionnaires. The return rates of the original sample of members for each denomination were as follows: Assemblies of God 55.2 percent, Southern Baptist Convention 53.9 percent, Catholics 60.5 percent, ELCA 70.1percent and Presbyterians 66.7percent.

Over-sampling and weighting:
The distribution of congregation size in all denominations is greatly skewed. Most churches are small, but most members belong to the larger churches. For this reason larger churches were over-sampled. One-half of the sample congregations was drawn randomly from the top one-third of the distribution in the entire denomination (or from the denomination in that region if we had the information). The other half was taken randomly from the lower two-thirds. Members data were weighted according to the size of their congregation. Because 30 households per congregation were sampled, regardless of congregation size, members of small congregations were over-represented in the data. Therefore, the lay questionnaires were weighted by congregation size so that they represented the correct percentages of each denomination's members in each category of church size. The following table shows the weights for each denomination (for the Assemblies of God, we had denominational data only by weekly attendance, not by member.)

Assemblies of God: Congregation Membership and Weight
50 to 99 .744
100 to 199 .707
200 to 399 .962
400 to 699 1.396
700 or more 2.642

Southern Baptists: Congregation Membership and Weight
50 to 76 .281
77 to 147 .443
148 to 219 .667
220 to 358 .919
359 or more 1.594

Catholics: Congregation Membership and Weight
50 to 550 .085
551 to 1099 .299
1100 to 2749 .712
2750 to 5499 1.437
5500 or more 4.271

ELCA: Congregation Membership and Weight
50 to 100 .554
101 to 175 .764
176 to 350 .870
351 to 499 .950
500 or more 1.424

Presbyterians: Congregation Membership and Weight
50 to 100 .298
101 to 200 .780
201 to 300 .707
301 to 499 1.026
500 or more 2.071
Principal Investigators
Dean Hoge, Charles Zech, Patrick McNamara and Michael Donahue
The Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Related Publications
Hoge, Dean R., Charles Zech, Patrick McNamara, and Michael J. Donahue. (1996). Money Matters: Personal Giving in American Churches. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press