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.
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.
CSR has just released our report on the 2007-2008 "CRC 150th Anniversary Survey," titled Spiritual and Social Trends and Patterns in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The report was co-authored with our esteemed "director emeritus" Rodger Rice. We all benefitted from tremendous support and cooperation from dozens of churches and the denominational leadership of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
The report's main sections cover over-time trends from CRC surveys dating back to 1987; measures and explanations of congregational health; factors related to generous, stewardship-oriented giving to the church; and an analysis of respondents' comments.
The following resources are available:
Here's a sample of the report's analysis, from Figure 13 on page 22 of the report. It shows the distribution of congregational health measures for churches with at least 20 respondents, sorted from healthiest to least healthy. Each colored square is a particular respondent's score on a highly reliable scale rating the congregation's health on 24 items representing 11 areas. The chart shows that there is substantial internal variation within churches, no matter how healthy they are--even the church with the healthiest score has some relatively disappointed congregants, and even the least healthy church has some fairly sanguine members.
Image created in Tableau 5.0.
Political science professor Corwin Smidt and senior Calvin College student Brian Schaap have co-authored a paper which will be published in a future issue of the Review of Religious Research (RRR). The paper is titled "Public Worship and Public Engagement: Pastoral Cues within the Context of Worship Services". An advance PDF copy of the unpublished working paper is available.
Dr. Corwin Smidt
The CSR is well into administering a completely online Christian Reformed Church 150th Anniversary Survey. More than 1400 responses have already been received!
The CSR would like to thank all who have participated as well as the survey coordinators who have been invaluable in recruiting participants.
Please follow this link to fill out the survey if you are part of a CRC congregation and would like to participate.