Surveying the Landscape
If you are interested in the ecology of the community in which a congregation is located, the Association of Religion Data Archives (TheARDA) is the place to start. Their “Community Profile Builder” will take you through the steps. And while you are there, you can explore historical timelines, other data on American religion, and data gathering tools.
And speaking of that larger picture, the folks who create a census of American congregations every ten years have the 2020 data available. And Duke University’s comprehensive National Congregations Study has been tracking trends since 1998. Each of those reports will help you put what you see on the ground into a larger perspective.
Thinking about local communities may lead you to wonder about the resources that reside in the building a congregation occupies. To pursue that curiosity, check out Partners for Sacred Places. They not only tell the stories of older sacred places across America, they also support their preservation and continued active community use, through capital campaign training and fundraising strategies, along with technical assistance, and grants to congregations.
Finding Common Ground
And if you are thinking about how to bring people together in these fractured times, Interfaith Photovoice is a resource worth exploring. It may help you think about how a gathering can be more inviting. You’ll also find hints there for how to use photos to dig deeper into the culture of a congregation – no matter what sort of gathering it is.