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Best Resources For Research

Much of the research found on Insights Into Religion focuses on congregations and their members, leaders and denominations; however, we also study the broader society within which congregations are located, and the schools that prepare leaders to guide congregations. The organizations with which we work offer high-quality research and valuable articles and workshops based on research.


Faith Communities Today (known as FACT) is the public outlet for ongoing research conducted by a consortium of more than 25 North American faith communities, scholars and institutions. The consortium develops a common questionnaire that is culturally sensitive to all of the faith communities, ethnicities and racial groups represented. As a consequence, the results allow highly accurate comparisons and contrasts across multiple divides. Survey results are disseminated through full reports and shorter articles on specific topics; all are available on the website as free downloads. The reports may also be purchased in booklet form at a nominal cost.

Hartford Institute for Religion Research has conducted cutting-edge research on emerging religion topics that have policy implications for faith communities and the nation. Explore the Congregations page for information about current life in American faith communities and for links to other major research initiatives; explore the Denominations page for information on regional judicatories and national faith bodies. You can also learn how to conduct your own high-value study of your congregation and its surrounding community; or, participate in the institute’s Congregational Assessment program and receive a profile of your own congregation’s characteristics and challenges.

U.S. Congregational Life Survey is the largest and most representative profile of worshippers and their congregations ever conducted in the U.S. The first wave was conducted in concert with an international survey of faith communities in English-speaking countries, making international comparisons possible, too. The U.S. survey also offers your congregation the opportunity to participate in the ongoing study by signing up to self-administer the congregational survey. The survey team will interpret your surveys and return a report that includes resources to help your community build on its strengths.

National Study of Youth and Religion offers in-depth information on the shape of religion and spirituality as understood and practiced by American youth, and identifies the effects of youth-targeting faith programs and broader cultural influences.

The National Congregations Study is an ongoing survey of the diverse worship communities in North America. It collects data over time about the social composition, structure, activities and programs of congregations, and presents the data in interactive tables that allow inquirers to compare attributes that are of interest.

Faith Leaders and Leadership

Faith & Leadership is a project of the Duke Divinity School to help improve the ability of faith community leaders to imagine the future and guide their organizations in new directions. Its Leadership Education program operates at the local church, regional judicatory and national denomination levels. The site offers a broad range of informed perspectives and scholarly resources to develop leadership philosophy and to hone practical skills.

Hartford Institute for Religion Research referenced in the Congregations section, has devoted a page of its website to clergy leadership resources.

Resources for American Christianity offers articles, interviews and newsletters of help to leaders of local congregations

The Alban Institute is a consortium of consultants, many of whom have an expertise in leadership development at the congregational, regional and denominational levels, as well as at the institutional board and administrative levels. 

Pulpit & Pew is an archived project that took place between 2001 and 2005 to assess clergy and pastoral work and life at the turn of the millennium.

Center for the Study of Theological Education conducts a “cycle of surveys” that measures various components of theological education in North America over time. Analyses of student body (future clergy) background, preparation, school experience and post-graduation career trajectories are provided on the Students and Graduates page.

Regional and National Bodies

he Association of Religion Data Archives provides free access to the highest quality data on religion.   The ARDA features more than 900 American and international data files along with tools and resources to assist congregations and researchers.  The ARDA has religion family trees, National Profiles, U.S. Congregational Membership data and maps, and an interactive Religion Timeline.

Resources for American Christianity, described above, offers relevant material for leaders of religious organizations and congregations.

Hartford Institute for Religion Studies, mentioned before, has a page of resources with links to quality research on denominations, and a suggested reading list of significant articles about clergy leadership. Another page of links leads to research, articles and a bibliography on regional judicatories.

Educational Institutions

The Center for the Study of Theological Education, also mentioned in the Faith Leaders section, above, studies institutions of theological education over time and offers programs and events for clergy leaders.

The Association of Theological Schools is a membership organization of more than 260 graduate schools that conduct professional education for people pursuing the practice of ministry or teaching and research in the theological disciplines. ATS sets and enforces accreditation standards and collects annual data on member institutions’ attendance figures, student body profiles, faculty credentials, faculty composition and compensation, institutional finances and institutional development programs.

InTrust educates and assists boards and others entrusted with governing theological schools in North America. The organization provides consultants and online resources to enhance leadership skills and promote awareness of prevalent and emerging trends in theological education; it also publishes a magazine, InTrust.

Society and Culture

Harford Institute for Religion Research, mentioned before, has produced groundbreaking studies on emerging trends. Subjects of study have included women’s leadership roles, the role of the Internet in religious life, the impact of church websites, changes in seminary and denominational structures and concerns, local faith community membership characteristics and trends, gay religiosity, the rise of megachurches and more.

National Study of Youth and Religion, previously identified, includes information on the moral and social formation of youth, the reach and effectiveness of programs offered to youth by religious communities, the influence of religion in the lives of youth and how these findings have changed between 2001 and 2010.

The African American Lectionary provides resources and perspectives that draw on the African American ecclesial tradition, address contemporary issues in African American religious life and promote leadership-level conversations about major topics at the intersection of theology and community.

Faith Communities Today, described earlier, offers online reports, articles and news releases that discuss common issues across faith communities and reflect the diverse contemporary American cultural and religious landscape.

Additional Resources

To pursue a research subtopic in greater breadth and depth, consult Insights Into Religion for regular updates.



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Review rank-ordered data on religion in the U.S. and around the world. Includes the latest data from the Religious Congregations & Membership Study, 2010


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