Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations, 1991 - Pastors Component

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


Conducted by the Search Institute, this national study was unprecedented in size and scope, involving within each denomination nationally representative samples of congregations and their pastors. Pastors from randomly chosen congregations provided in-depth, survey-based data on faith, loyalty, religious biography, congregational life, and the dynamics of Christian education programming. The original project components included Adults, Youth, Coordinators of Christian Education, Pastors and Teachers. Two subsequent components, Core and Leadership have been added.

The study focuses primarily on formal Christian education, defined as the programs and events a congregation intentionally offers to teach the faith to children, teen-agers, and adults. Christian education includes Sunday school, church school, Bible studies, confirmation, camping, retreats, workshops, youth ministry and youth groups, children and adult choirs, auxiliaries for men and women, prayer groups, religious plays and dramas, Vacation Bible School, new member classes, and intergenerational or family events and programs. Attention is also given to the role of other congregational factors, including what many might call "informal education," or the values, symbols, culture, and patterns of interactions that help describe congregational life.

Data File
Cases: 517
Variables: 553
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: The project was a three-and-a-half year study beginning in 1987 and concluding in 1991. Surveys were administered to congregations in 1988.
Funded By
The Lilly Endowment, Inc., Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church
Collection Procedures
Survey booklets for pastors were administered in nationally representative samples of congregations in six denominations - Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church - in 1988.
Sampling Procedures
In each of the six denominations, 150 congregations were randomly selected, with sampling stratified by size of congregation (under 200, 200-499, 500-999, 1,000 and larger) to ensure representative distribution on this key factor. Within each selected congregation, samples of adults, adolescents (grades 7-12) and teachers were randomly selected for the survey study. In addition, in each of the congregations, the pastor (the senior pastor, if more than one) and the coordinator of Christian education were surveyed.

"Congregational participation rates were quite outstanding, exceeding typical response rates for this kind of research. The number and percentage of congregations participating from the original random samples of 150 per denomination are as follows:

Percent of Participating Random Denomination Congregations Sample
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) [CC] 102 68
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] 110 73
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) [PC] 101 67
Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] 68 45
Untied Church of Christ [UCC] 93 62
United Methodist Church [UMC] 87 58

For the five mainline denominations, the combined participation rate was 66 percent (493 of 750). Non-cooperating congregations tended to be those whose leadership was in transition. The participating congregational samples were compared with the known national characteristics of the participating denominations and found to be proportionately representative on a range of demographic factors. The United Methodist sample tends to over-represent larger congregations. The Southern Baptist sample, though proportionately small, appears to represent SBC national characteristics. It is not known whether any systematic biases influenced those Southern Baptist congregations that cooperated as compared with those that declined. Since this was an ecumenical study dominated by mainline denominations, it is possible that some strongly independent Southern Baptist congregations chose to decline the invitation." (Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Summary Report on Faith, Loyalty, and Congregational Life. Search Institute.)

(Data collection, sampling procedures and rates of participation are described for the Effective Christian Education study as a whole.)
Principal Investigators
Dr. Peter Benson
Related Publications
(The following publications are no longer in print, except where noted. All publications published by Search Institute, except where noted.)

Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Report for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Report for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Report for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Report for the Southern Baptist Convention

Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Report for the United Church of Christ

Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Report for the United Methodist Church

Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations: A Summary Report on Faith, Loyalty, and Congregational Life

Exploring Christian Education Effectiveness: An Inventory for Congregational Leaders
*Exploring Faith Maturity: A Self-Study Guide for Adults (no leader manual)
*Exploring Faith Maturity: A Self-Study Guide for Adults (with leader manual)
*Exploring Faith Maturity: A Self-Study Guide for Teenagers (no leader manual)
*Exploring Faith Maturity: A self-Study Guide for Teenagers (with leader manual)
Promoting Faith Maturity: Celebrating Possibility (Tape 1)
Taking Stock: The Shape of Faith among American Protestants (Tape II)
Promoting Faith Maturity: Where Does It Come From (Tape III)
Promoting Faith Maturity: What Congregations Can Do (Tape IV)
Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations - Video Discussion Guide

Promoting Faith Maturity (set of 4 tapes)
Rethinking Christian Education: Explorations in Theory and Practice (published by Chalice Press)
The Teaching Church: Moving Christian Education to Center Stage (published by Abingdon Press)
Youth in Protestant Churches (still available from Search Institute)
Beyond Leaf Raking: Learning to Serve/Serving to Learn (still available from Search Institute)
*These four publications were revised in 1998 and are currently available from Lutheran Brotherhood, 625 Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55415.