There are a lot of congregational studies going on these days! The Lilly Endowment (sometimes known as “The Church’s One Foundation”) has been making a raft of grants for the study of thriving congregations. You might want to explore the descriptions of the work that is happening near you.

Another project that caught our eye is headquartered at Princeton Theological Seminary and led by Gordon Mikoski. Researcher Erin Rafferty is leading the team of researchers who are exploring how “ecclesial imagination” helps congregations adapt and reinvent themselves, and the group has been exceptionally creative in shifting to doing their work on-line. They had intended to use fairly typical ethnographic methods but have adapted to do their “deep hanging out” as they walk alongside the on-line gatherings of the congregations they are studying. A recent interview with Rafferty, along with several other useful resources is at Duke University Divinity School’s Faith&Leadership website.

Across the pond, Prof. Pete Ward continues to lead the Ecclesiology & Ethnography Network, and he has been interviewed for Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed’s “Three Minute Ministry Mentor” podcasts on why culture matters and why music matters in congregations. Links are here. While you are there, check out the other resources the Network offers.

Meanwhile, at Hartford Seminary, the 2020 Faith Communities Today survey aims to gather data on 20,000 congregations! Watch for updates as they become available.


Nancy Ammerman is Professor of Sociology of Religion, Emerita, at Boston University and is Director for this website.