About the 2012 National Congregations Study
Frequently Asked Questions:
A. What is the 2012 National Congregations Study?
B. Why are you conducting this survey?
C. Who is conducting this survey?
D. What is NORC?
E. How much time will it take?
F. Why should I participate?
G. How will this study help my congregation?
H. How will I learn about this study’s results?
I. What kind of questions will you ask?
J. Will my identity and responses remain confidential?
K. How was our congregation chosen for this study?
L. Why can’t you interview someone else?
M. Is this the first National Congregations Study?
The 2012 National Congregations Study (NCS) is a major survey of a nationally representative sample of approximately 1,300 congregations from all over the United States. It will document the work, programs, and activities of America’s religious congregations. It will gather this information by interviewing one knowledgeable leader from each congregation included in the study. These interviews will occur between March and August, 2012.
Religious congregations are a significant part of American society. It is difficult to document, however, just how significant they are, and how they might be changing in the 21st century. The NCS will contribute to knowledge about American congregations by gathering information about a wide range of their characteristics and programs. The information collected will be used by scholars, religious leaders, and students to better understand religious congregations and better meet their changing needs.
The 2012 National Congregations Study is funded primarily by the Lilly Endowment, with additional funding from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Duke University, Louisville Institute, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, RAND Corporation, and Church Music Institute. It is being conducted by Mark Chaves at Duke University, in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago.
Founded in 1941 as the National Opinion Research Center, NORC at the University of Chicago is an independent, non-partisan research organization headquartered in downtown Chicago. NORC collaborates with government agencies, foundations, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to conduct social science research that serves the public good and informs important decisions about our society.
To find out more about NORC at the University of Chicago, you can contact the NCS project director at NORC, Jodie Daquilanea, toll-free at 866-829-3160. You can also visit NORC’s website at: www.norc.org.
You have an opportunity to help fill gaps in our knowledge about religion in the United States. You are one of a small number of religious leaders who are being asked to tell us about the work, programs, and activities of your congregation. For this study to truly represent the activities of religious congregations in the nation, it is crucial that we interview a leader from each selected congregation. The success of this study depends very much on your cooperation.
We will send you a report with key results from this study. These results will allow you to compare your own congregation to other congregations. You will be able to see what other congregations like yours are doing when it comes to worship, social ministries, and other activities. You will be able to learn how your congregation compares to others on characteristics like size and staffing. And you will be able to understand better which of the issues and challenges you face also are faced by many other congregations. Religious leaders and people in congregations often find that knowing more about the ways in which their own congregation compares with other congregations enables them to understand better their own experiences, situations, and practices. The context provided by the National Congregations Study helps congregations to better understand and assess where they are and how they are doing as a congregation.
We will send you, free of charge, as many copies of the report as you need if you want to use it at a board, staff, or other leadership meeting, or if you want to use it in an adult education class. Dozens of congregations have used previous NCS reports in this way.
To see in more detail how results from this study can help you to better understand your own congregation’s situation, please explore the results from the first two waves of the National Congregations Study, which took place in 1998 and 2006. A report that highlights some of those results is available here.
We will send you a report containing key results. Like the report mentioned above, this new report will be easily readable and suitable for use in board, staff, or other leadership meetings.
You also can learn about the results from the study’s website. The NCS-I was conducted in 1998, and it generated a tremendous amount of useful information about the state of American religious congregations and the challenges they face. The NCS-II was conducted in 2006, enabling us to see trends over time in American congregations and gather data on topics not explored in 1998. We expect the NCS-III to give us even better insight into trends over time, and we will be gathering data on several exciting new topics.
Our website is highly user-friendly, designed so that religious leaders can explore the information on their own. You can see results from the earlier studies there, and the site will be updated with information from the 2012 study.
The questions we’ll ask have to do with your congregation’s work, programs, and activities. You can decline to answer any question that you feel uncomfortable with. Most participants find the survey to be interesting, and they enjoy the opportunity to talk about their congregation and their work.
All the information that you provide will be kept in strict confidence. Your personal identity and your congregation's identity also will be kept in strict confidence. It is important to us to protect your privacy and the privacy of your congregation. Information from all the congregations we talk to will be combined and presented in the form of summary statistics, tables, and graphs. No identifying information will be released to the public.
Your congregation is part of a statistically valid, nationally representative sample of congregations.
Your congregation has been attended at some time by someone who responded to a large national survey known as the General Social Survey. The General Social Survey collects information from a nationally representative group of Americans, and the congregations that these respondents say they have attended forms a nationally representative sample of American religious congregations.
Your congregation was randomly selected for this survey. To maintain the scientific integrity of the study, we cannot interview any other congregation in your place. If you do not participate, important information about congregations like yours will be lost.
This is the third wave of the National Congregations Study. The first NCS was conducted in 1998, and the second NCS was conducted in 2006.
The National Congregations Study website contains more information about the study, including some of the results. Mark Chaves has written extensively on findings from the NCS, including his books Congregations in America (2004, Harvard University Press) and American Religion: Contemporary Trends (2011, Princeton University Press). Some selected results from the 2006 NCS were published in American Congregations at the Beginning of the 21st Century: A Report from the National Congregations Study. This is the report we sent to selected congregations when we first contacted them about participating in this study. It also is available here.
Call NORC toll-free:
Email NORC at:
ncs-3 [at] norc.org
Contact Field Production Managers for the NCS-III:
Sandra Pitzer - 888-493-5957
Donna Rader - 877-368-6579
Contact the NCS-III Project Director at NORC:
Jodie Daquilanea -
Daquilanea-Jodie [at] norc.org
Contact the Principal Investigator for the NCS-III:
Mark Chaves -
mac58 [at] soc.duke.edu
Contact the NCS-III Project Manager at Duke:
Shawna Anderson -
sla15 [at] soc.duke.edu
National Congregations Study,
NORC at the University of Chicago
1 North State St., 16th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602-3305