National Congregations Study, Cumulative Dataset (1998, 2006-2007, 2012, and 2018-2019)

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The National Congregations Study (NCS) dataset fills a void in the sociological study of congregations by providing data that can be used to draw a nationally aggregate picture of congregations. Thanks to innovations in sampling techniques, the 1998 NCS data was the first nationally representative sample of American congregations. Subsequent NCS waves were conducted in 2006-07, 2012, and 2018-19. The 2006-07 NCS sample includes a subset of cases that were also interviewed in 1998. The 2012 NCS includes an oversample of Hispanic congregations. The 2018-19 NCS includes a subset of congregations that also were interviewed in 2012. The NCS Wave I-II Panel Dataset is also available from the ARDA. The Wave III-IV Panel Dataset will be available soon.
Data File
Cases: 5,333
Variables: 1,083
Weight Variable: WT_ALL4_CONG_IGN, WT_ALL4_CONG_DUP, WT_ALL4_ATTENDEE, WT_WAVE2_CONG_DUP, WT_WAVE2_ATTENDEE, WT_PANEL12_CONG_IGN, WT_PANEL12_ATTENDEE, WT_WAVE3_NOHISP_CONG_DUP, WT_WAVE3_NOHISP_ATTENDEE, WT_WAVE3_HISP_CONG_DUP, WT_WAVE3_HISP_ATTENDEE, WT_WAVE4_CONG_IGN, WT_WAVE4_CONG_DUP, WT_WAVE4_ATTENDEE, WT_PANEL34_CONG_IGN, WT_PANEL34_CONG_DUP, WT_PANEL34_ATTENDEE
In general, analysts will weight the data by WT_ALL4_CONG_DUP when examining the data from the average congregation's perspective and by WT_ALL4_ATTENDEE when examining the data from the average attendee's perspective. See the detailed weighting documentation for more information about NCS weights.
Data Collection
Date Collected: 1998, 2006-2007, 2012, and 2018-2019
Original Survey (Instrument)
NCS Full Codebook
Funded By
The National Congregations Study (NCS) was made possible by major grants from Lilly Endowment, Inc. The 1998 NCS also was supported by grants from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Inc., Louisville Institute, Nonprofit Sector Research Fund of the Aspen Institute, and Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. The 2006-07 NCS also was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, and Louisville Institute. The 2012 NCS also was supported by grants from the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project, Louisville Institute, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI, Rand Corporation, and Church Music Institute. The 2012 NCS also received generous support from Duke University and from the National Science Foundation via NSF support of the General Social Survey. The 2018-19 NCS also was supported by grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Louisville Institute, and Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. The National Science Foundation supported the 2018-19 NCS via the module competition that subsidized including questions about respondents' congregations on the 2018 General Social Survey.
Collection Procedures
The GSS is a face-to-face interview conducted by experienced and well-trained interviewers; in 1998, 2006-2007, 2012, and 2018-2019, interviewers were instructed to glean from respondents as much locational information about their congregations as possible. The 1998, 2012, and 2018-2019 NCS data were collected by the same interviewers who collected data from GSS respondents; in 2006-2007, some of the data were also collected by phone-bank interviewers.

NCS Wave I

Once the congregational sample was generated, nominated congregations were located, and the NCS gathered congregational data using a 45-60 minute interview with one key informant--a minister, priest, rabbi, or other staff person or leader--from each nominated congregation. Three-quarters of NCS interviews were with clergy, 83 percent were with staff of some sort, and the remaining 17 percent were with non-staff congregational leaders. Every effort was made to conduct these interviews by telephone, but we followed-up with face-to-face visits if telephone contact was difficult. 92 percent of the interviews were completed by phone. The NCS-I response rate was 80 percent. Complete data were collected from 1,234 congregations.

NCS Wave II

As in 1998, data were gathered via a 45-60 minute interview with one key informant, usually a clergyperson, from each congregation. 78 percent of NCS interviews were with clergy, 86 percent were with staff of some sort, and the remaining 14 percent were with non-staff congregational leaders. We attempted to conduct these interviews by telephone, but we visited congregations and conducted in-person interviews if necessary. Our efforts to persuade congregations to participate were greatly helped by endorsements from 19 individuals in 11 denominations. The NCS-II response rate was 78 percent. Complete data were collected from 1,506 congregations.

NCS Wave III

As in previous waves, data were gathered via a 50-minute interview with one key informant, usually a clergyperson, from each congregation. 77 percent of interviews were with clergy, 93 percent were with staff of some sort, and the remaining seven percent were with non-staff congregational leaders. We attempted to conduct these interviews by telephone, but we visited congregations and conducted in-person interviews if necessary. For the first time in 2012, the NCS used computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), meaning that the questionnaire was transformed into a computer program that was installed on interviewers' laptop computers. The NCS-III response rate is between 73 and 78 percent. A range is reported because the exact response rate depends on assumptions about the congregations associated with GSS respondents who declined to nominate a congregation after stating that they attended more than once a year. Based on these GSS respondents' answers to the religious service attendance question and also on post-survey debriefing with GSS interviewers, the vast majority of these non-nominating GSS respondents may not have named a congregation simply because they did not really attend often enough or in a meaningful enough way to be able to name a congregation. If these non-nominated congregations are not counted against the NCS-III response rate, the NCS-III response rate is 78 percent. If the non-nominations are indeed valid congregations, the response rate is 73 percent. Complete data were collected from 1,331 congregations.

NCS Wave IV

Data again were gathered using computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), and we again interviewed one key informant, usually a clergyperson, from each congregation. The median interview time was 65 minutes. 75 percent of interviews were with clergy, 94 percent were with staff of some sort, and the remaining six percent were with non-staff congregational leaders. We attempted to conduct these interviews by telephone, but we again visited congregations and conducted in-person interviews if necessary. 91 percent of the interviews were conducted by phone; nine percent were conducted in person. Data were gathered between July 2018 and September 2019. The NCS-IV response rate was 69 percent. Complete data were collected from 1,262 congregations.

Because so few NCS interviews in previous waves were conducted in Spanish even though we had a fully translated Spanish questionnaire, we did not translate the Wave IV questionnaire into Spanish. We did, however, employ bilingual interviewers to conduct impromptu Spanish interviews when necessary. Seventeen Wave IV interviews were conducted either all in Spanish or in a combination of English and Spanish.

The NCS-IV again included a panel component. All 830 NCS-III congregations that had been nominated by the 2012 GSS respondents who were part of the new 2012 GSS cross-section were included in this panel. We re-interviewed 597 of these congregations, 75 of which also were nominated anew in 2018. So the panel effort added 522 congregations to the total sample. In addition to the 597 congregations that were part of the panel sample, five other congregations nominated in 2018 were also a part of the 2012 sample but not included in the panel. So the NCS-IV sample contains 602 cases on which we also have 2012 data. Purists working with the panel sample may want to exclude the five cases that were not initially selected for inclusion in the panel.

A special feature of the NCS-IV is that it gathered detailed staffing information that was used to conduct a follow-up survey of clergy who serve NCS-IV congregations. NCS key informants were asked to provide names and contact information for each ministerial staff person, and these reports were supplemented with staffing information gleaned from congregational websites, Facebook pages, and other online sources. This follow-up survey, the National Survey of Religious Leaders (NSRL), included all primary leaders of NCS congregations, whether or not they are paid, and, beyond the primary leaders, paid ministerial staff who are doing religious work in the congregation. Because the NCS is a survey of a nationally representative sample of religious congregations from across the religious spectrum, the religious leaders and paid ministerial staff beyond the primary leaders who serve NCS congregations in turn constitute a nationally representative sample of religious leaders who work in congregations. Building the NSRL on the NCS foundation is a natural extension of the NCS. Unlike the NCS, which focuses on congregations, the NSRL focuses on clergy within these congregations, using a high-quality, nationally representative sample of clergy from across the religious spectrum to provide information about religious leaders' characteristics, attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors in a wide range of arenas. NCS-IV and NSRL data can be linked to provide an even richer portrait of congregations and those who lead them. NSRL data and results should be publicly available sometime in 2021. It was funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
Sampling Procedures
The NCS was conducted in conjunction with the General Social Survey (GSS)--an in-person interview with a representative sample of noninstitutionalized English- or Spanish-speaking adults in the United States, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. In 1998, 2006-2007, 2012, and 2018-2019, the GSS asked respondents who said they attend religious services at least once a year to report the name and location of their religious congregation. The congregations named by these respondents constitute the 1998, 2006-07, 2012, and 2018-2019 NCS congregational samples.

In 2006-07, a panel component was added to the NCS. In addition to the new cross-section of congregations generated in conjunction with the 2006 GSS, a stratified random sample was drawn from congregations that participated in the 1998 NCS. In Wave IV, in addition to the new cross-section of congregations generated in conjunction with the 2018 GSS, we included all Wave III congregations that were nominated by GSS respondents who participated in the GSS for the first time in 2012. That is, we did not include in the panel Wave III congregations that had been nominated by GSS respondents who were in the 2012 GSS because they were part of the GSS's own panel of re-interviewees. The 2006 NCS sample, then, includes a subset of congregations that also were interviewed in 1998; the 2018-19 NCS includes a subset of congregations that also were interviewed in 2012.
Principal Investigators
Mark Chaves
Related Publications
Chaves, Mark, Mary Ellen Konieczny, Kraig Beyerlein, and Emily Barman. 1999. "The National Congregations Study: Background, Methods, and Selected Results." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(4): 458-476.

Chaves, Mark. 2004. Congregations in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Chaves, Mark and Shawna L. Anderson. 2008. "Continuity and Change in American Congregations: Introducing the Second Wave of the National Congregations Study." Sociology of Religion 69:415-440.

Chaves, Mark, and Shawna Anderson. 2014. "Changing American Congregations: Findings from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 53(4): 676-686.

Chaves, Mark and Alison Eagle. 2015. Religious Congregations in 21st Century America. Durham, NC: Department of Sociology, Duke University.

Chaves, Mark. 2017. American Religion: Contemporary Trends - Second Edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Chaves, Mark, Mary Hawkins, Anna Holleman, and Joseph Roso. 2020. 'Introducing the Fourth Wave of the National Congregations Study.' Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59(4): forthcoming.
Citation
Manuscripts using this data file or codebook should contain the following citation:

Chaves, Mark, Shawna Anderson, Alison Eagle, Mary Hawkins, Anna Holleman, and Joseph Roso. 2020. National Congregations Study. Cumulative data file and codebook. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University, Department of Sociology.
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