Most faith communities express a desire to serve their local neighborhoods. But not all congregations are able to describe their neighborhoods objectively.
For social researchers, this affects their ability to correlate congregational data with demographic descriptors. If congregations cannot consistently describe whether they are small town or suburban, residential or rural, then researchers cannot make reliable comparisons about relative effectiveness in such communities.
For congregational leaders, objective data may help to clarify the opportunities for service within the neighborhood. A congregation serving long-time residents in a small town may not recognize that many of the new neighbors are now commuting more than an hour each day.
Both researchers and congregational leaders may find helpful suggestions for designing better surveys or for creating effective service programs in this recent analysis of congregational self-perception using our 2010 Faith Communities Today dataset.