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.
In the process of moving from the data acquisition stage to the application stage, we are excited to see what information we’ll be able to extract. Beyond tracking demographic information of old and new congregations, we gathered data on each congregation’s surroundings. We focused on street conditions, land use, presence of greenery, size and architecture type of congregational buildings, and visible loitering in the area.
The upcoming projects and goals of what to do with this data represent a dynamic and exciting opportunity for us. The CSR works alongside the DeVos Foundation and the Child and Family Resource Center who both have compelling ideas and visions. We can look into the many active congregations and religious communities that contribute to high religiosity rates in Kent County.
Another big issue for us is youth-serving programs in Kent County. Some areas of these programs lack resources while overlapping efforts in other areas mean that some resources could be better used elsewhere. In general, we’re concerned about communities that have gaps in certain social services.
You can read about the interesting work that was done on replacement values in the Gatherings of Hope Study which gives qualitative value to the support that congregations give their communities and the factors that affect their giving. With this information, congregations will be better informed on how best to serve their communities and where there is need for collaboration and partnership.
The future looks interesting for us; there are numerous opportunities for original analysis and further study of our new data. We are excited to work with other experts, researching different questions and hypotheses.