Presbyterian Panel Survey, April 1991: The Nature of the Church and Its Practice of Governance

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


The Presbyterian Panel is an ongoing panel study in which mailed questionnaires are used to survey representative samples of constituency groups of Presbyterians-members, elders, pastors and clergy serving in specialized ministries. The major consideration guiding this research is a desire to gather broad information about Presbyterians in terms of their faith and their social, economic and demographic characteristics, to provide a comprehensive profile of the denomination. The April 1991 survey focuses on opinions of the Church's priorities, missions, governing bodies and polity-related issues.

Data File
Cases: 3,628
Variables: 264
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: April 1991
Funded By
Congregational Ministries Division, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Collection Procedures
All sampled individuals were sent a packet containing: a personally-addressed introductory letter (with preprinted signature) from Price Gwynn, Moderator of the General Assembly; a personally-addressed and signed cover letter from John P. Marcum, Panel Administrator; a two-page sheet describing the Panel in question-and-answer format ("Presbyterian Panel: An Introduction & Overview"); a "token of appreciation," a 3-1/2" decal with the symbol and name "Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)"; a postage-paid, business-reply return envelope; and a copy of the questionnaire. (The overall design of the questionnaire and the other materials followed the "Total Design Method" developed by Don A. Dillman (see, Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1978.)

Initial mailings to individuals began in late September and were completed in the first week of October. The initial mailing and follow-ups were sent out to panelist samples in this order: pastors; specialized clergy; elders; and members. (Some mailings to members occurred late because their congregations took longer to return the form listing their names. The last initial mailing to members took place in mid-November. Follow-ups to these members were proportionately late.)

Approximately ten days after the initial mailing, a reminder postcard was sent to every sampled individual. Three weeks later (in early November), a second follow-up was sent to those individuals who had failed to return the questionnaire in the initial mailing. This second follow-up included a cover letter from John P. Marcum, another copy of the questionnaire, the descriptive sheet on the Panel, and a postage-paid return envelope.

Finally, in mid-December, a third follow-up mailing was sent to the nonrespondents of two samples; members and specialized clergy. (Limited time precluded a follow-up to all samples; these two were selected because, at the time, they had the lowest response rates.) In addition, a telephone follow-up of 100 randomly-selected member nonrespondents was undertaken to explore reasons for nonresponse, and to discover if nonrespondents differ from respondents significantly on one or more characteristics. A large minority of sampled, nonrespondent members were never reached by phone, precluding any conclusions from this follow-up. While many who were reached were older members with illnesses or disabilities, presumably many of those not reached by phone were younger and away at work (all phone calls were attempted on weekdays from 9 am to 6 pm, EST).

Note: Because of the different nature of the populations, two versions of the questionnaire were constructed, one for the members and elders, the other for the two samples of ordained ministers. The majority of questions on both forms were identical, although the member/elder form contained some unique questions concerning participation in church activities, and the ordained minister form contained some unique items on theological education and careers in the church.

POPULATIONS AND SAMPLING
Four samples of the Presbyterian Panel were drawn from separate constituency groups of Presbyterians-Members, elders, pastors/clergy and specialized clergy, described in detail below:

Members
The member sample was drawn from the population of active members of congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), i.e., persons listed on the active membership rolls of congregations (see the Book of Order, G-5.0202). However, elders on session, persons under age 18, persons living more than 50 miles from their congregation, and persons unable to complete a mailed questionnaire were excluded. At the end of 1989, the total active membership of the denomination was 2,895,706.

Elders
The population of elders is defined as the subset of active members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations who have been both ordained to the office of elder by the Presbyterian Church (or one of its predecessor denominations) and are currently serving on session of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation. (See the Book of Order, O-6.0101 through G-6.0108, and G-6.0300.)

Pastors/Clergy
The population of pastors/clergy is defined as those persons who are ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament; are members of one of the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and are serving as a pastor, co-pastor, assistant pastor, associate pastor, interim supply pastor or interim associate pastor of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation (including union congregations). Operationally, this definition includes ordained ministers with the following occupational codes: 101-105; 111-115; 121-125; 131-135; 161; 163. (See Book of Order, O-6.0201 through G-6.0202.)

Specialized Clergy
The population of specialized clergy is defined as those persons who are ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament; are members of one of the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and were not employed as a pastor, associate, assistant, interim supply, or interim associate pastor of a congregation affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the time of sampling. Operationally, specialized clergy are ordained ministers with all other codes than those listed above, for pastors. Specialized clergy include (among others): denominational officials and executives; tentmakers; chaplains; professional counselors; and teachers.

Note: Emeritus pastors and retired ministers were excluded in defining both the pastor and the specialized clergy populations.
Sampling Procedures
Four representative samples were drawn (one from each of the four populations) using probability techniques described below.

Members
There is no known exhaustive list of active members of all Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations. Therefore, to obtain a sample of members, a two-stage sampling process was implemented. First, using proportional stratified sampling, 500 congregations were drawn from the list of all 11,537 congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Strata were determined by membership size, using increments of 50. Within each strata, congregations were selected randomly. In addition, because previous experience indicated lower response rates from smaller congregations, we included a small oversample in the three smallest congregation sizes (five churches from those with less than 50 members; four churches from those with 50-99 members; and three churches from those with 100-149 members). Thus, the total congregation sample was 512 (including the oversample of 12).

Second, for each sampled congregation, the mid-1990 membership was estimated using straight-line extrapolation from the 1988-1989 trend. With the total membership as the maximum, seven random numbers were generated for each sampled congregation. Each congregation was asked to compile an alphabetical list of their active members, to number the names consecutively, and then to send us the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the seven members whose numbers in the alphabetical list corresponded to the random numbers generated for that congregation. Letters containing sampling instructions were addressed to the pastor, by name, if the congregation had a pastor, or if not, simply to 'Clerk of Session.' The initial mailing to congregations also included a letter from Price Gwynn, Moderator of the General Assembly.

The Panel provided a form for submitting the names of the seven sampled members. Congregations were requested to follow the instructions exactly, and to make no substitutions. However, they were asked to indicate, for each of the persons sampled, certain characteristics, and were told that persons with such characteristics would be excluded from the member sample. These characteristics included: serving currently as an elder on session; currently living more than 50 miles away from the congregation (unless a college student); under age 18; completely unable to complete and return a mailed questionnaire.

The initial mailing to congregations took place in early August, 1990. About two weeks after the initial mailing, a reminder postcard was sent to all sampled congregations. Congregations that still had not responded after two more weeks were contacted by telephone, when possible. Those congregations that could not be reached by telephone were mailed a reminder letter with a second copy of the sampling instructions.

Responses were accepted until late October, 1990. A total of 402 congregations (79%) submitted names. A net total of 2,340 names met the sample qualifications and were included in the sample of members.

Elders
The Office of the General Assembly maintains a list of elders currently on session. This list was divided according to synods, and a proportional random sample taken in each synod at a rate of approximately 1:72. The total resulting net sample numbered 1,810.

Pastors and Specialized Clergy
The Office of the General Assembly maintains a list of all ordained ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Panel staff divided the names on this list into three groups: (1) pastors (as defined above); (2) specialized clergy (as defined above); and (3) all others (including retired clergy). Target sample sizes were 1,800 for the pastors and 1,000 for the specialized clergy, but both populations were oversampled to permit elimination of those who served during Cycle 6 (1988-1990) of the Panel. As a result, the final net samples numbered 1,769 pastors and 907 specialized ministers.

Response Rates
Response rates varied from 72% (members) to 88% (pastors) (see Table B-2). In addition, a small number of questionnaires in each sample were not delivered by the postal service because of incorrect addresses.
Principal Investigators
Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and John P. Marcum, Panel Administrator
Related Publications
The Presbyterian Panel 1991-1993 Background Report. 1990. Louisville, KY: Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Indexes
Three indexes were constructed in the following manner: Each question included as part of an index had five possible responses: strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree. Numbers were assigned to the individual responses (1-5), then were summed across questions, obtaining an average score by dividing the resulting figure by the number of questions comprising the index. The resulting averages were aggregated into high (3.5-5.0), medium (2.5-3.4), and low (1.0-2.4) categories.

Otherworldliness
CHREL6 Strongly agree = 5
CHREL7 Strongly agree = 1
CHREL8 Strongly agree = 5

Individualism
CHREL9 Strongly agree = 5
CHREL10 Strongly agree = 5
CHREL11 Strongly agree = 5
CHREL12 Strongly agree = 1
CHREL13 Strongly agree = 1

Relativism
CHREL1 Strongly agree = 5
CHREL2 Strongly agree = 1
CHREL3 Strongly agree = 1
CHREL4 Strongly agree = 5
CHREL5 Strongly agree = 1
Notes
Due to differences in coding for the two questionnaires, when the two data files were merged, several variables lost some variation, as listed below.

PCDENOM1-4
When merged, the response categories were modified from strongly agree (1), agree (2), tend to agree (3), tend to disagree (4), disagree (5), and strongly disagree (6) to agree (1), disagree (2), and don't know (3).

CHREL9-11
The response categories for disagree (4) and strongly disagree (5) were included in disagree (4).
INCOME
Response categories were modified from less than $15,000 (1), $15,000-$24,999 (2), $24,000-$34,999 (3), $35,000-$49,999 (4), $50,000-$74,999 (5), $75,000-$99,999 (6), and $100,000 or more (7) to less than $25,000 (1), $25,000-$49,999 (2), $50,000-$99,999 (3), and $100,000 or more (4).

TOCHURCH
Percentages were collapsed from none (0), 2% or less (1), 3%-4% (2), 5%-6% (3), 7%-9% (4), 10% (5), 11%-14% (6), 15% or more (7) to 2% or less (1), 3%-6% (2), 7%-9% (3), and 10% or more (4).

For the occupation variables, MOCCUP and SPOCCUPM, occupations were determined and classified according to the modified Edwards classification scheme developed and used by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.