Center for Social Research

Report on 2009 Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Survey


Since 2004, CSR has been supporting the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) in its Sustaining Pastoral Excellence project, which has been funded by grants from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. Three waves of surveys have been conducted on an approximately biennial bases, in 2004/2005 (which we're now labeling "2005" for simplicity's sake), 2007 and 2009.

A full report is now available comparing all three survey waves and including statistical models of pastors' self-reported pastoral health (vocational satisfaction and sustainability), leadership skills, and congregational fulfillment of the CRC's mission statement. The report finds statistical stability across all three waves--excellence is indeed being sustained. But we also identify many areas of concern with room for improvement, especially council support through systematic feedback on preaching. The statistical models suggest that programmatic interventions per se have mixed effects, but targeting leadership skill development could stimulate improvements in pastoral health.

The following resources are available from CSR; also see the SPE project's survey page.

  1. Full report (11.2MB; 78-page color PDF, with extensive bookmarks and hypertext cross-referencing)
  2. Printable PDF questionnaires for pastors and clerks of council.
  3. Online web-based questionnaires for pastors and clerks of council (shown in preview mode; data is not collected).
  4. Charts and frequencies of multiple choice items for pastors (56-page PDF) and clerks of council (26-page PDF).
Comments and critiques are welcome! Click "read more" below to see a sample finding from the 2009 survey.

UPDATE 12/20: The CRC Newsroom has a story about the survey.

UPDATE 1/15: The Grand Rapids Press has written a story about the survey.


Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 12:12 PM
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CSR co-sponsors 2010 conference, “Reformed Mission in an Age of World Christianity”

  CSR is pleased to be a co-sponsor with other Calvin College Centers and Institutes of the 2010 Reformed Mission in an Age of World Christianity conference; follow this link to read more about it. Open to all, the June 15-17, 2010 conference immediately precedes the inaugural meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) on Calvin's campus. Register now! Then read on for more about CSR's plans for a focus group research project at the conference.


Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Monday, June 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM
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April 8 CSR Presentation: Data visualization with KCCS

Using data from the Kent County Congregations Study, CSR staff will showcase emerging tools and methods for visual data analysis.

Please join us:

  Thursday April 8, 2010
3:30 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall
Calvin College

See the entire poster!

UPDATE: See the presentation (PowerPoint 2007)!

Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:49 PM
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Kent County Congregations Canvassing Completed

The Center for Social Research is pleased to announce that, as of November 5, 2009, we have completed our comprehensive church canvassing project! The student research assistants estimate that they covered over 124 tracts, and collected data documenting congregational movements and new congregations in Kent County. In total, 24 new congregations were discovered.

Even though there is a feeling of finality to this phase of the project, in reality it has only just begun. We now have a great deal of data to add to the previously collected data from the Kent County Congregational Survey of 2006 that was compiled into the impressive report, Gatherings of Hope. These data will also be used to make a comprehensive and up-to-date directory of Kent County congregations.

By visiting each congregation in Kent County, student researchers were able to take pictures of every building and record any changes to leadership, contact information, membership, and other relevant information.


Posted by Tony Ditta on Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 10:48 AM
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Preliminary Analysis for Clergy and Public Affairs Survey 2009

Final analysis has begun for 2009 Clergy and Public Affairs Survey concerning political beliefs and clergy practices from ten denominations. This year's survey continues a series of post-presidential election surveys conducted since 1980 for the Southern Baptist Convention and since 1988 for other denominations. Answers to frequently asked questions about the survey and a list of denominations can be found here.

CSR student Research Assistants were an integral part of the data collection process, stuffing thousands of envelopes inviting clergy to participate in either online or printable versions of the survey. Research Assistants also entered over 1,500 paper surveys to add to the more than 1,200 online surveys submitted.

Comparative demographic information from 2001 and 2009 post-election surveys (excluding PCUSA data for early analysis) shows that gender, ethnicity, and community size reported by participants have not changed significantly since 2001, but age of respondents has increased. Nearly 61 percent of respondents in 2001 fell into the category of 34 to 54 years of age. In 2009, only 48 percent fell into this category, and the category of 55 and older experienced a growth of 12 percent, making nearly 46 percent of respondents fall into this category.

In the following table, we see that the clergy seem to be leaning toward a theologically orthodox viewpoint. In 2009, clergy reported consistently higher percentages of agreement on the following measures of theological conservatism. However, clergy agreeing with the statement concerning Christ’s physical second coming have decreased by 1 percent. Perhaps the most interesting change is the increase from 2001 to 2009 in both Evangelical and Mainline clergy in total agreement with the statement “Adam and Eve were real people” by 8.2% and 12.6% respectively. Evangelical denominations consist of the Assemblies of God, Southern Baptists, the Christian Reformed Church, the Lutheran Missouri Synod, and the Mennonites. Mainline denominations consist of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the Reformed Church of America.


Posted by Tony Ditta on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 10:35 AM
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