Center for Social Research

Report on 2011 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. Four waves of surveys have been conducted on an approximately biennial basis, in 2004/2005 (which we’re now labeling “2005” for simplicity’s sake), 2007, 2009 and 2011.

A full report is now available comparing all four 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 four 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; see also the SPE project’s survey page.

  1. Full report (4.18MB; 75-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. Comments and critiques are welcome! Click “read more” below to see a sample finding from the 2011 survey.


Posted by Traci Montgomery on Monday, January 14, 2013 at 03:26 PM
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Is Civil Discourse in Politics Possible?

The Calvin community is welcome to join three panelists on the timely topic “Is Civil Discourse in Politics Possible?” on Thursday, October 4, at 4 p.m. in the Commons Lecture Hall. Refreshment provided.

Members of an alumni-faculty study group on civility and politics will share insights and resources about this issue in the midst of a highly charged election season. This civil discourse group was funded jointly by the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship and the Calvin Alumni Association. Some of the group’s work can be found at including video clips of interviews with the group members.

The October 4 panelists are Doug Koopman, Calvin political scientist; Neil Carlson, from the Center for Social Research; and alumnus Mark Lemoine ‘93, director of government affairs, Spectrum Health.

Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM
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Public and official opinion about cooperation and combination of local governments

Survey results released today show that a majority of survey respondents, both residents and elected officials of Kent County, Michigan, support sharing services such as police, fire and public works among governments, but there is no majority for sharing assessment of property values or tax collection. Majorities support informal cooperation, formal contracts and combining agencies, but a supermajority of responding elected officials and a near-majority of responding residents oppose merging governments into larger units.

Jim Penning’s legacy of research in public service

Not long before he passed away in 2010, then-director of CSR Dr. Jim Penning was inspired and agitated by an article in the Grand Rapids Press (now lost to memory). An experienced commissioner of the City of Kentwood, Dr. Penning began working with me to design a survey about local government cooperation and consolidation. We met with our friends at the Community Research Institute (CRI) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and they agreed to adapt our design for inclusion in an upcoming version of the Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey.

This morning, I had the privilege of bringing Jim’s work to fruition by pinch-hitting for CRI staff in presenting recent survey results to the board of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council. GVMC is an august gathering of mayors and other local officials from Kent County and several other West Michigan counties. An important vehicle for cooperation among local governments, GVMC co-sponsored the survey project, with grant funding from the Frey Foundation. GVMC provided a list of elected officials for a mail survey parallel to GGRCS. Today’s presentation juxtaposed these two surveys to compare the opinions of residents and elected officials. The event was covered by Calvin grad Matt Vande Bunte of the Grand Rapids Press.

Survey results

Readers may be interested in versions of the presentation with notes or as full size slides, along with a two-page handout summarizing the findings.

Here are two key charts from the end of the presentation that summarize the findings.

Support for sharing various services

Chart of survey results on sharing services

Degrees of intergovernmental cooperation and consolidation

Chart of survey results on degrees of cooperation

Posted by Neil Carlson on Thursday, September 06, 2012 at 08:44 PM
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Fundraising by Christian colleges during the recession


The journal Christian Higher Education has published an article (click for abstract and full text) based on survey data collected by CSR and co-authored by Neil Carlson:

    Janel Curry, Scott Rodin & Neil Carlson (2012): Fundraising In Difficult Economic Times: Best Practices, Christian Higher Education, 11:4, 241-252

Janel Curry is the newly-appointed Provost of Gordon College and conducted this research in her role as the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Christian Perspectives on Political, Social and Economic Thought. Scott Rodin is currently partner for strategic alliances at Artios Partners. At the time of writing, both Curry and Rodin were associated with the not-for-profit practice of the One Accord consulting group.

As summarized in the article abstract, “Our research suggests that macroeconomic conditions, the number of development staff, and the size of development budget do not predict [fundraising] performance. Performance is related to a transformational approach to development work built on a compelling vision that is communicated clearly.”


Posted by Neil Carlson on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 10:45 AM
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Welcome New Hires!

    We’re looking forward to working with five new student research assistants who will work full time this summer, then continue part time with CSR when the fall semester begins.

  • Melissa Lubbers, a senior Psychology major, interned with us during the spring and now joins the research assistant team.

  • Leah Hoogstra, a senior with a double major in Mathematics and International Development, started working with us during second semester.

  • Shawntavia Stewart is a sophomore and in a pre-med program with concentrations in Public Health and Bio-Chemistry.

  • Michael Kelly will be a junior this fall and is studying Psychology.

  • Lauren Muñoz’s major is Sociology, and she’ll be a junior this fall.

    We appreciate the wide skill set (and the phenomenal personalities) this new group brings to CSR.

Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 03:30 PM
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