National Congregations Study

The National Congregations Study, carried out by NORC at the University of Chicago and Principal Investigator Mark Chaves at Duke University, aims to document the work, programs, and activities of America’s religious congregations. The study is sponsored by the Lilly Endowment with additional support from the John Templeton Foundation and the Pew Research Center, and the information it collects is used by scholars, religious leaders, policy makers, and students to better understand the activities, characteristics, and social composition of all types of religious congregations and better meet their changing needs.

The National Congregations Study is the first ever high quality survey of a nationally representative sample of congregations. The sample for the study uses a hypernetworking sampling method that asks participants of the nationally representative General Social Survey (GSS) who attend religious services to name their religious congregations, which in turn generates a nationally representative sample of religious congregations. The first National Congregations Study was conducted in 1998 with congregations named in GSS interviews in 1998. The second wave of the study, conducted in 2006-2007, was a follow-up to the first wave. The Wave II sample consisted of congregations named in the GSS 2006 interviews, as well as a sub-sample of congregations identified during Wave I. The third wave of the study was conducted in 2012 with congregations named in GSS 2012 interviews. The fourth wave of the study is now in progress.

NORC conducted the survey for the first, second, and third waves of the study and is conducting Wave IV in 2018. The fourth wave of the study examines stability and change in congregations’ core characteristics and activities, including their social composition, size, social service involvement, political activity, connections with other religious and secular organizations, and many other things. This latest wave will also explore such topics as congregations' social media use, leadership challenges, and wellness activities. The Wave IV sample consists of congregations named in the General Social Survey (GSS) 2018 interviews.

National Congregations Study has yielded many articles as well as books published by the Principal Investigator Mark Chaves, including American Religion: Contemporary Trends (Princeton University Press, 2011) and Congregations in America (Harvard University Press, 2004). Findings from Wave III of the study are available on the Duke University website: Religious Congregations in 21st Century America.PDF icon

Video FAQ

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Principal Investigator

Dr. Mark Chaves
(919) 660-5783

NCS Based Books

American Religion: Contemporary Trendsextlink
(Chaves 2011)

Congregations in Americaextlink
(Chaves 2004)

Infographics and Visualizations



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