May 2018
What Makes a Congregation Vital?
A New Report Coming Soon from Faith Communities Today
What does a congregation mean when they describe themselves as spiritually vital? Leaders from 10 faith traditions that participated in the 2015 Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey were invited to go deeper. Faith traditions included Bahá'í, Church of the Nazarene, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jewish synagogues, Latter-Day Saints, Orthodox Christian, Presbyterian Church USA, Quaker, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church. Leaders answered questions about what it means to be vital and what contributes to or distracts from vitality. They were also asked to describe the differences between vitality and sustainability. 

Despite substantial differences in theology, leadership, size and congregational practices, their responses were surprisingly similar. Spiritually vital congregations were described as coming together for a divine common purpose in ways that are transformative to the people within them and to their communities.

While this broad definition held true across traditions, each tradition brought its own perspectives and emphasis to bear. Some focused on developing spirituality while others focused on building strong, caring communities. Others focused on how congregations engage the world in acts of mercy, justice and evangelism. Despite different theology, methods and emphasis, all traditions described going deeper in these areas as a way of increasing vitality. Likewise, they described how shallow engagement in these areas resulted in low vitality.

Several respondents described times when their congregation’s vitality was low and how particular shifts in focus and practices helped them become strong again. This study shows that there are a number of ways leaders can help congregations move into the future by helping their congregations focus on God’s current call to more deeply engage with God, their neighbor, and one another so that they are transformed for the sake of today’s world. It is also impo rtant to stress tha t the substance of what it means to be vital varies across faith traditions, thus there will be different approaches for different denominations.

Please stay tuned for the full report soon. In the meantime, check out the following resources on congregational vitality:

Introducing Sarah Brown
As of February, Sarah Brown has been hired as Executive Director of CCSP/FACT. Sarah’s role will be to lead day-to-day operations and program activities, as well as to expand the capacity of the partnership as a relevant research-generating entity. Sarah's professional experience includes extensive work with congregations and faith communities in an interfaith context. She has served as a contract consultant to the Center for Congregations, editor of the Congregational Resource Guide (CRG), website manager for Economic Challenges Facing Indiana Pastors, and an event consultant with the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders, among many other nonprofit management and administrative roles. Sarah is excited to be joining in the excellent work of CCSP/FACT and would welcome the opportunity to hear from you .
US Religion Census Reports on the Religiously Uninvolved
When the topic of religious participation arises, the opposite topic often comes up as well: What about people who aren’t religiously involved? Our partners at the U.S. Religion Census recently compiled the map at right representing the percent of the U.S. population unclaimed by any of the 236 participating religious groups. For many decades, the Pacific Northwest has been known as the least claimed part of the country, but their 201 0 census revealed northern New England as another area with very low religious involvement. Maine is now the state with the highest proportion (72.4%) of the population unclaimed by any of the participating groups.
Recent Partner Research

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