Center for Social Research

“Clergy Participation in Local Politics” paper and presentation

Following up on the Gatherings of Hope report for a general public readership, CSR and our research partners are beginning to produce academic studies from the 2007 Kent County Congregations Study. CSR Director Jim Penning will present our paper on "Clergy Participation in Local Politics" at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association; the presentation is part of a panel on clergy activism that will take place at 8:00AM on Friday, April 3.

Key findings from the paper: Kent County clergy are quite active in contacting public officials; about 60 percent of the 496 ordained clergy in the study data said they had contacted a public official about an issue of interest to their congregation. Like other citizens, members of the clergy are strongly influenced by their educational level; those with Master's and doctoral-level education were 22 to 24 percent more likely to contact public officials than those with less than college education; those with Bachelor's-level education were 8 percent more likely.

Congregational context is also important; for example, clergy from congregations with large percentages of high-income persons were dramatically less likely to contact public officials, probably because they do not perceive serious needs to do so; the percentage of theologically liberal participants in the congregation was also an important influence. Clergy serving congregations that experienced internal conflict in the last two years were actually more likely to contact public officials. The paper also models which kinds of officials were contacted (city, state and federal, for example) and what issues the contacts were about. Education was the most frequently cited cause for contacting officials, with much higher levels of contact by clergy from congregations with Black and Hispanic pluralities and near schools with high proportions of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

Posted by Neil Carlson on Friday, March 13, 2009 at 09:55 AM
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Visualizing vision statements

Happy 2009 from CSR!

An online tool called Wordle is all the rage; we found it after FlowingData gave Wordle honorable mention in its 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year. We couldn't resist feeding the 55 of the "most quotable" vision statements from respondents to the Kent County Congregations Study into Wordle. Here's the result:

Click the image to see a larger version on Wordle.

Posted by Neil Carlson on Monday, January 05, 2009 at 11:55 AM
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KCCS presentation to religious leaders

November 10 was a great day. About 150 religious leaders from 72 diverse congregations in Kent County gathered with other civic, community and academic leaders at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville for the Kent County Religious Leaders Symposium. Many participants have suggested further meetings to keep energy high, and efforts to fulfill this wish are under way.

Thanks to Calvin student videographer Kyle Berkompas for recording the event.


Posted by Neil Carlson on Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 12:18 PM
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Gatherings of Hope report released from the Kent County Congregations Study

Download the report
(PDF, 100pp., 4.7Mb)

Order bound copies from the Calvin College Campus Store.


Our report on the Kent County Congregations Study of 2007 is now online! The report, entitled Gatherings of Hope: How Religious Congregations Contribute to the Quality of Life in Kent County is downloadable now in PDF format and bound, full-color copies are available for purchase from the Calvin Campus Store.

As reported on Sunday in the Grand Rapids Press, the KCCS is the most comprehensive study of religious congregations and how they contribute to the quality of life in Kent County. Inspired by the philanthropic vision of Doug and Maria DeVos and funded by their foundation, the project affirms the need for educational, community and religious sectors to collaborate in efforts to improve the lives of children and their families.

These major findings of the report are found in the Executive Summary:

  • Kent County is an unusually religious community. Compared to congregations across the country, Kent County residents are significantly more likely to attend religious services. Kent County congregations are larger in size, have more leaders, are better funded, and are more likely to have participated in or supported a social service program.
  • Hundreds of congregations are located in areas of poverty and great need. Compared to majority White congregations, Black and Hispanic congregations in the county average three to four times the proportion of people with household incomes under $25,000.
  • Local congregations transfer $75.6 million annually to denominations and to international, domestic and county aid and missions—but only 14 percent is clearly designated for Kent County.
  • Worship services in Kent County take place in 28 different languages, reflecting cultural and ethnic diversity. At times multiple languages are spoken in the same congregation.
  • Religious attendance is strongly associated with service to others. Almost 5,200 people from Kent County congregations—including paid staff and volunteers—participate in community service activities. Congregation leaders spend time worth $8.8 million annually on civic and social efforts.
  • Congregations supply 2,827 volunteers for educational programs, but only a third of congregations report any involvement with public schools.
  • Kent County congregations offer higher numbers of social service programs than comparable national averages—2,338 programs in all. Religious participation is not required by 70 percent of these programs.
  • Other institutions would have to generate from $95 million to $118 million to replace the services and programs that Kent County congregations provide annually in their community-serving ministries.

Gatherings of Hope is being distributed today to over 200 religious and community leaders at the Kent County Religious Leaders Symposium, held at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.

Posted by Neil Carlson on Monday, November 10, 2008 at 03:39 PM
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KCCS Progress

With over 500 interviews completed, we have transitioned to the next phase of the Kent County Congregations Study. Over the next few months, we’ll be busy analyzing the data and organizing key findings for our reports. We also plan on having a public event later this year to celebrate the completion of the project and share some of the findings.

KCCS is as a study of educational and social service provision by religious congregations in Kent County, Michigan. Many of the congregations we interviewed reported involvement in a variety of programs aimed at benefiting their communities.

We used several different measures in an attempt to document these programs, and one item that helped us greatly was our program type list. While not exhaustive, this list contained many types of programs that congregations in other similar studies have mentioned. 

If you have questions about this study, please contact the .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Posted by Michael Evans-Totoe on Friday, May 30, 2008 at 02:58 PM
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