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Ecclesiology and Ethnography – Do They Go Together?

Without the fancy words, that is to say, “What does observing and analyzing ordinary church life – studying congregations – have to do with thinking theologically about what church life means?” About a decade ago, Professor Pete Ward, from Durham University in the UK, and Dr. Chris Scharen, Auburn Seminary’s Vice President of Applied Research, had an idea. Since more and more people were employing ethnography to explore and think about church life, perhaps they should have a chance to talk with each other. Out of that was born the Network for Ecclesiology and Ethnography. This very fruitful network now hosts both gatherings as the “Ecclesial Practices Group” at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion, but it also hosts...
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From the Archives: “Faith and Political Engagement: Latina/o Protestants At the Intersection”

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From the Toolkit: Stepping Back to Watch and Listen

The Studying Congregations Toolkit gives you the tools you need to better understand a congregation. These PDF downloads were created especially for seminarians and religious leaders. Often deepening our understanding of our congregational spaces and communities is as simple as learning to open our eyes to the hidden dynamics and realities at play on the ground. Find out more here!
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Existing Research

Many researchers have made important contributions towards our understanding of congregations. We can help you know what they know.
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The Toolkit

Want to better understand your congregation? Our free PDF downloads feature the tools you'll need. Educators take note: They're perfect for use in seminary classrooms!
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Buy the Handbook

Prefer paper? Love a good throwback in time? Want more examples and exercises for understanding your congregation? Buy Studying Congregations: A New Handbook.
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About Us

StudyingCongregations.org is the premier resource for understanding religious congregations in the United States. A collaborative project of leading scholars in the fields of sociology of religion, history, and practical theology, the strategies, resources and tools you will discover on this site have been designed specifically for theological educators, future religious leaders, and anyone else who wants to go beyond the received wisdom to discover what is happening in religious gatherings today.

This resource is offered to you as a gift of the Congregational Studies Team, an informal research group that has led the way in researching US congregations. Their work is generously funded by The Lilly Endowment.

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Theologians in the Field

Over the last couple of decades, the field of practical theology has increasingly drawn on methods from the social sciences.  Most especially, people seeking to understand the theological wisdom of a community have practiced ethnographic methods for gathering information and...
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Featured Research

Ecclesiology and Ethnography – Do They Go Together?

Without the fancy words, that is to say, “What does observing and analyzing ordinary church life – studying congregations – have to do with thinking theologically about what church life means?”...
Read More →

Finding Resources in Unexpected Places

Mike Mather has spent most of his adult life pastoring churches in neighborhoods most people would call ”deprived.”  Not Mike.  When he greets someone at the food pantry or on the street, he’s...
Read More →

From the Archives: “Faith and Political Engagement: Latina/o Protestants At the Intersection”

From the outside, Allen Temple Ministerios Hispanos (ATMH) is unimposing. Located deep in poverty-stricken East Oakland California, ATMH’s neighbors include two fellow protestant churches, a bar...
Read More →