How Important is Religion in America?

Imagine if all American adults were represented by a town comprised of only 100 people.  In this small community, what would religion look like? Earlier this month the Pew Research Center published an article by Aleksandra Sandstrom and Becka A. Alper that answered the question by providing infographics built from data about religious beliefs and behaviors based on the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study. For the question, "How important is religion?" the respondents answered: very: Read More …

Dwindling Membership: The United Church of Christ from 1965-2015

While I consider myself a post-denominational follower of the Way of Jesus, I have spent the most of the last six years involved in the life of congregations affiliated with the United Church of Christ.  This Mainline Protestant denomination has experienced a significant decline in membership over the last 50 years from over 2 million members in 1965 to under 1 million members in 2015. The graph at right shows the denomination's total membership by year in blue and the percent change or Read More …

Clergy = Not Trusted?

According to a recent Pew Research Center Report clergy and other religious leaders are not as trusted to act in the best interest of the public as are many other groups.  More specifically, the percentage of American adults who say they have either "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of confidence that a group will act in the interest of the public follows: Medical Scientists - 84% Military - 79% Scientists - 76% K-12 Principals and Superintendents - 66% Religious Leaders - Read More …

Church Giving – The 55/45 Rule

Leadership Network recently published an insightful article by Chris Willard and Warren Bird focused on giving metrics in the context of congregational ministry.  This piece mentions something I think should be called the 55/45 rule. This rule comes from research conducted by David Thoroughman, CEO of the donor analytics firm MortarStone.  Thoroughman found that, on average, 99% of a congregation's funding comes from giving units that give $200 or more a year but only 55% of all attendees Read More …

Religiously Unaffiliated: 25 Years of Growth

From 1971 to 1991, the religiously unaffiliated ranged between 5% and 8% of the adult population in America.  While data from the General Social Survey shows that the percentage was higher in some years than others, it featured growth and decline in irregular and unpredictable ways within that narrow range. Twenty-five years ago (1991) I had no idea what it meant to be religiously unaffiliated.  Terms like "nones" or "religiously unaffiliated" were not in my vocabulary.  While my young age at Read More …

Are Clergy Underpaid?

New Research In the March 2016 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Mark Chaves (author of one of my top ten faith enriching books) and Cyrus Schleifer offer the most in-depth quantitative analysis of American clergy compensation compared to American compensation in general and among the college educated workforce.  Unique to their work is the inclusion of housing allowances, conversion of income to hourly rates using self-reported working hours, and comparison to two Read More …

Choosing a Church – New Research

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a report titled "Choosing a New Church or House of Worship: Americans Look for Good Sermons, Warm Welcome." (I encourage you to read the full report or the associated detailed article about the findings.) It's Personal This new report is incredibly valuable to me for both professional and personal reasons.  Professionally, I have served eight Mainline Protestant congregations in a variety of roles.  Personally, my wife and I have been searching Read More …

Seminary Size – Evangelicals are #1

How large is large when it comes to a seminary student body in America? The primary accrediting body, Association of Theological Schools (ATS), accredited 246 institutions during the 2015-16 school year with an enrollment of just over 37,000 students (full-time equivalent) in the USA. Earlier this month Chelsen Vicari mined the ATS data to determine the largest seminaries in the USA.  Based on full-time enrollment numbers for the 2015-16 school year she found The top ten Read More …

Farewell to White Protestant America

Last week I noted how old Mainline Protestantism has become here in America.  Back in 2011 I reflected on a group of pastors from one Mainline denomination that labeled their own tradition "deathly ill."  Today, I recognize that death has come not only for that denomination or Mainline Protestantism but also for the Protestantism I have known and lived that is broader yet: White Christian America. Obituary  Robert P. Jones', CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, new book "The End of Read More …

Mainline Protestantism = Old

Until around the year 2000 I always thought of the group of churches to which I have belonged as Mainline or Mainline Protestant.  Over the last several years I have heard a variety of terms used that convey the considerable decline in membership and cultural capital. Data from the Pew Religious Landscape Study shows just how old the Mainline/Sidelined/Oldline Protestant traditions have become.   Mainline Denomination Median  Age Percent of Members Age Read More …