Center for Social Research

Correlates of Congregational Growth, 2000-2005:  Vitality, Purpose, Drums, and Irreverent Joy

What has distinguished growing American congregations from their stagnant and dwindling cousins? Some tentative answers are found in a new report from Faith Communities Today:  a growing, youthful demographic setting, a multiethnic constituency, a “vital,” contemporary worship style, and a purposeful organizational disposition to grow and change. Drums and “joyful” worship often went with growth; worship described as “reverent,” unfortunately, did not often accompany numeric growth in weekly attendance (see pages 9 and 10 of the report).

Whether these recent trends are worthy of emulation is a theological and social matter the current report does not address directly. But scholars and laypeople of all stripes may find evidence to inform their perspectives. The report, covering many faiths and denominations, is based on nationwide data collected in 2005 by the Calvin College Center for Social Research.

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Posted by Neil Carlson on Tuesday, December 19, 2006 at 12:20 PM
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Follow the Money: Mapping Campaign Contributions

What:   Social Science Division Symposium
When:   Tuesday, November 14 @ 3:30PM
Where:   DeVos Communication Center room 170
Who:   All social science faculty, with other faculty and students welcome.
     
Speaker:   Neil Carlson, Assistant Director of the Center for Social Research
Topic:   Following the money: mapping flows of campaign contributions.

The figure below draws on 2004 data including presidential campaigns, mapping interstate flows for 48 states. Most Republican funds propagated indirectly through Washington DC, which is not mapped in this case, though such mapping is feasible. The map was produced by Waldo Tobler's Flow Mapper tool.

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Posted by Neil Carlson on Monday, October 30, 2006 at 09:08 AM
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Studying urban sprawl from space

Discover magazine led me to a great find, a new satellite imagery study of urban sprawl in the US by a University of Toronto team led by economist Matthew Turner. The study surprisingly finds less sprawl than expected overall, but major differences among metropolitan areas. Miami is compact, Pittsburgh sprawls. Inter-city differences are explained by differences in “ground water availability, temperate climate, rugged terrain, decentralized employment, early public transport infrastructure, uncertainty about metropolitan growth, and unincorporated land in the urban fringe.” See the working paper or get a copy of the published version from the Quarterly Journal of Economics on the IDEAS site (the download did not work for me, but the citation and abstract are complete).

Posted by Neil Carlson on Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 10:04 AM
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Calvin faculty study local congregational worship

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) has received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to better understand the transformative nature of worship. A team of nine Calvin College faculty and Center for Social Research (CSR) staff are working with John Witvliet and the Worship Institute staff to study issues of “Worship, Worldview and Way of Life.”

Five of these faculty members are working together and partnering with ten local congregations in Grand Rapids to do a series of studies. The ten churches represent both urban and suburban locations as well as a variety of denominations. These studies cover worship’s relationship to everything from conceptions of community to issues of race. In keeping with the Worship Institute’s practical goals, the aim is to help congregations become more reflective about how worship can empower congregants to be transformative agents in society. CSR staff and student research assistants are providing research support, especially Gwen Einfeld, who is organizing tracking of recordings and transcripts. Read on for details of these studies and biographical sketches of the faculty conducting them.

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Posted by Neil Carlson on Wednesday, September 06, 2006 at 09:07 AM
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CSR Project Fellows Mulder and Smith gearing up

Jamie Smith (Philosophy) and Mark Mulder (Sociology) are the CSR Project Fellows for the 2006-2008 academic years. They’re planning a pilot study of evangelical Christians’ attitudes and beliefs about cities and residential patterns. Read on for excerpts from their proposal…

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Posted by Neil Carlson on Friday, September 01, 2006 at 03:31 PM
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