FAQs
Why should religious leaders use information on this site?
How have congregations changed since 1998?
How can I see responses to survey questions?
How can I see the relationships between two different questions?
Should I focus on congregations or attendees (i.e., persons in congregations)?
How should I read the results?
What do some of these terms mean? (Glossary)
________________________________________On this website you can learn about the NCS survey project and review the survey methodology and the questionnaires. You can also read more extensive writings about the research findings and contact the research team.
Also, through a simple selection process, you can find out basic results from almost any question asked on the survey. You can also pick any two of the survey questions and create your own crosstabulations of responses to those questions. These searches can provide information that reflects the average congregation in the U.S. or the experience of the average participant in U.S. congregations.
Explore the site and the NCS survey information and let us know if you have questions.
Why should religious leaders use information on this site?
The results from this study allow religious leaders across the country to compare their own congregations to a national sample of other congregations.
 They will be able to see what other congregations like theirs are doing when it comes to worship, religious education, social ministries, and other activities.
 They will be able to learn how their congregations compare to others on characteristics like size and staffing.
 They will be able to understand better which of the issues and challenges they face also are faced by many other congregations.
 And they will be able to see which changes experienced by their own congregations are broad changes within and across religious groups and regions.
Religious leaders and people in congregations often find that knowing more about the ways in which their own congregation compares with others 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.
How have congregations changed since 1998?
Since the NCS surveyed congregations in three different waves, we can track continuity and change. Click here for a summary of changes since 1998. Results can be seen from the perspective of the average attendee or from the perspective of the average congregation.
How can I see responses to survey questions?
You can select any question asked in the survey and get the number and percentage of answers for each response category for that question. This is called the "Frequency Distribution." This will also give you the total number of responses and the number of congregations who did not answer it. Those who did not answer are missing cases for that question. You can get these findings to represent the number of congregations or the number of attendees. For example, you could find out the percent of congregations that have applause in their services, or you could find the percentage of attendees who do and don't experience applause in their congregations' services.
Explore the Data to create frequency tables of results. See items below if you are asking "How should I read the results?" or "What do some of these terms mean?"
How can I see the relationships between two different questions?
You can select any two survey questions (also called "variables") and crosstabulate answers to them. By choosing a variable to display along the left side of the table and another to display across the top of the table, you will be able to see how the two variables relate. This will produce a "crosstabulation" table. You can get these findings to represent the number of congregations or the number of attendees. For instance, by crosstabulating applause with denominational tradition, you could see the proportion of congregations in different traditions that have applause in their services. From a different perspective, you could also find out the number of people (attendees) in different traditions who experience applause in their congregations' services.
Explore the Data to create a crosstabulation table and compare two variables. See items below if you are asking "How should I read the results?" or "What do some of these terms mean?"
Should I focus on congregations or attendees?
Do you want to know about the characteristics of the average congregation or the characteristics of the congregation attended by the average worship service attendee? Do you want your findings to reflect the number of congregations of a certain type or the number of persons in U.S. congregations of a certain type? These questions point to subtly different perspectives on the same information. In 2012, for example, the average congregation had 70 regular participants; the average attendee, however, was in a congregation with 400 regular participants. In 2012, to give another example, 55.7 percent of congregations had web sites, but 83.0 percent of attendees were in congregations with web sites. The difference, of course, is that large congregations are more likely to have web sites than small congregations.
If you want to know about the characteristics of the average congregation or if you want your results to reflect the percentage of congregations of a certain type, then use the "Tables Reflecting the Number of Congregations." If you want to know about the characteristics of the congregation attended by the average worshipper or if you want your results to reflect the percentage of people in congregations of a certain type, then use the "Tables reflecting the Number of Attendees."
For instance, in exploring the facts about the gender of the senior leader, you may want to see what percent of congregations are led by males and by females. To get this, you would use the "Tables Reflecting the Number of Congregations." And you would see that 88.6% of congregations have male leadership while 11.4% have female senior leadership, according to the 2012 survey.
On the other hand, you might be interested in the percent of people who attend U.S. congregations that are led by male or female senior clergy. Then you would use the "Tables Reflecting the Number of Attendees." This would show that in 2012, 93.8% of U.S. worshippers were in congregations led by a male and 6.2% were in congregations with a female senior leader.
The same two perspectives are presented when crosstabulating the responses to two questions. For instance, you may ask what percentages of male and femaleled congregations have a particular characteristic, such as having handed out voter guides. To get this, you would look at the "Tables Reflecting the Number of Congregations."
Or you might want to look at the "Tables Reflecting the Number of Attendees" if you were more interested in the percentage of people attending femaleled congregations who experience guitars in worship compared to the percentage of people in maleled congregations who hear guitars in worship.
How should I read the results?
Using the online tool, you can create tables that summarize information from one question (or variable) or tables that compare responses from two variables. Exact wording of questions and notes about the variables in any tables that you create using the online tool can be found below the tables. This information and more is also available in the NCS cumulative codebook, which also includes questionnaires for all waves of the survey. Definitions of key terms can be found in the Glossary below.
Frequency Tables that Reflect the Number of Congregations provide basic information about the percentage of U.S. congregations that have any of the characteristics about which we have information. Frequency distributions list all of the possible ways a congregation can be classified with respect to a given topic, and then add up all of the congregations that fall into each category.
In this example, you can see what percentage of U.S. congregations have each of three types of theological orientation: More Conservative, Right in the Middle, and More Liberal. The key numbers are in the "valid percent" column. This table tells us, for example, that 25.0% of congregations (in 2012) were described as theologically "right in the middle."
Response 
Frequency 
Percent 
Valid Percent 
Cumulative Percent 
MORE ON THE CONSERVATIVE SIDE 
821 
61.7% 
62.8% 
62.8% 
RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE 
326 
24.5% 
24.9% 
87.7% 
MORE ON THE LIBERAL SIDE 
160 
12.0% 
12.2% 
99.9% 
Missing 
24 
1.8% 


Frequency Tables that Reflect the Number of Attendees provide basic information about the percentage of U.S. worshippers that attend congregations with any of the characteristics about which we collected information.
In this example, you can see what percentage of people attending U.S. congregations are in congregations that have each of three types of theological orientation: More Conservative, Right in the Middle, and More Liberal. This table tells us that 28.8% of people who attend worship services (in 2012) were in congregations that were described as theologically "right in the middle."
Response 
Frequency 
Percent 
Valid Percent 
Cumulative Percent 
MORE ON THE CONSERVATIVE SIDE 
773 
58.0% 
59.0% 
59.0% 
RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE 
378 
28.4% 
28.8% 
87.8% 
MORE ON THE LIBERAL SIDE 
160 
12.0% 
12.2% 
100.0% 
Missing 
21 
1.6% 


CrossTabulation Tables that Reflect the Number of Congregations put congregations into the categories of the two variables you have selected. These crosstabulations are set up so that you can see the number (or percent) of congregations in each lefthandside category that have the characteristics identified along the top of the table. They should be read "across" each line of the table. In this example, you can see how the length of a congregation's sermon breaks down for each different type of theological orientation. For example, the first line of this table says that, in 2012, 52.3% of theologically conservative congregations had sermons lasting from 21 to 40 minutes, and 23.0% had sermons exceeding 40 minutes.

Length of sermon (SERMTIME) 

Theological orientation (THEOLOGY) 
10 min or less 
11 to 20 min. 
21 to 40 min. 
More than 40 min. 
Row Totals 
MORE ON THE CONSERVATIVE SIDE 
5.2%  19.5% 
52.4% 
22.9% 
62.6% 
RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE 
6.0% 
45.7% 
32.5% 
15.8% 
25.3% 
MORE ON THE LIBERAL SIDE 
7.2% 
55.9% 
20.4% 
16.4% 
12.1% 
Column Totals 
5.7% 
30.5% 
43.5% 
20.3% 
100% 
You also can use these tables to examine differences between different types of congregations. This can be done by comparing a percentage from one line with the analogous percentage from a different line. In this example, 75.3 percent of the theologically conservative congregations have sermons longer than 20 minutes (52.3% with 21–40 min, plus 23.0% with more than 40 min), while only 36.6 percent of theologically more liberal congregations have sermons longer than 20 minutes. The association between these two variables is statistically significant at the .01 level, so it is correct to say with 99% confidence that a congregation's theological orientation is related to the length of a typical sermon heard in that congregation.
CrossTabulation Tables that Reflect the Number of Attendees put congregations into the categories of the two variables you have selected. These crosstabulations are set up so that you can see, of all people attending congregations in each category listed on the left of the table, what percentage are in congregations that also have the characteristics identified across the top of the table. Interpret these tables by reading "across" each line of the table. In this example, you can see how the length of a congregation's service breaks down for each different type of theological orientation. For example, the first line of this table says that, of all worshippers attending theologically conservative congregations, 11.9% attend congregations having sermons that are 10 minutes or less, 23.1% attend congregations having sermons lasting from 11 to 20 minutes, 49.7% attend congregations with sermons lasting 21 to 40 minutes, and 15.3% percent attend congregations with sermons over 40 minutes in length.

Length of sermon (SERMTIME) 

Theological orientation (THEOLOGY) 
10 min or less 
11 to 20 min. 
21 to 40 min. 
More than 40 min. 
Row Totals 
MORE ON THE CONSERVATIVE SIDE 
11.9%  23.1% 
49.7% 
15.3% 
59.0% 
RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE 
22.0% 
41.8% 
27.6% 
8.6% 
29.0% 
MORE ON THE LIBERAL SIDE 
20.8% 
54.5% 
17.5% 
7.1% 
12.0% 
Column Totals 
15.9% 
32.3% 
39.4% 
12.4% 
100% 
You can also use these tables to examine differences between different types of congregations. This can be done by comparing a percentage from one line with the analogous percentage from a different line. In this example, 65% (49.7% + 15.3%) of worshippers attending theologically conservative congregations attend congregations that have sermons longer than 20 minutes, while only 25% of worshippers attending theologically more liberal congregations hear sermons lasting that long. The association between these two variables is statistically significant at the .01 level, so it is correct to say with 99% confidence that a congregation's theological orientation is related to the length of a typical sermon heard in that congregation.
What do some of these terms mean? (Glossary)
COLUMN TOTALS
Figures in this row (in a crosstab table) show the number and percentage of congregations in each column of the table, ignoring differences between the rows. There are two numbers in each column. The first number represents the weighted percent of congregations in each column. The second number represents the weighted number of congregations in each column. Because of the sampling procedure employed in this study, the number of congregations is weighted, and it is difficult to interpret. You can find more information about the sampling technique and weighting used in this study in the codebook.
CUMULATIVE PERCENT
The cumulative percent (in a frequency table) reflects the percent of congregations that fall into a response category plus the percent of congregations that fall into all of the categories above that category.
FREQUENCY
Figures in this column (in a frequency table) tell you the weighted number of congregations in the sample that fall into each possible response category. Because of the sampling procedure employed in this study, these numbers have been weighted, and are therefore difficult to interpret. It is best to ignore this column in favor of the information presented in the Valid Percent column.
MISSING CASES
Sometimes representatives from congregations were unable or unwilling to provide answers to questions. These instances represent blank spaces in the data, and are therefore called missing cases. This number (in a frequency table) tells you how many congregations have missing data on the topic that you have selected.
PERCENT
These numbers (in a frequency table) tell you the percent of congregations that fall into each possible response category, as well as the percent of congregations sampled that have missing information on this topic. The information in the Valid Percent column is preferable to this information because the missing cases are excluded from the calculation of the valid percentages.
RESPONSE
Labels in this column (in a frequency table) describe each of the possible response categories into which congregations can fall regarding the topic you've selected.
ROW TOTALS
Figures in this column (in a crosstab table) show the number and percentage of congregations in each row of the table, ignoring differences between the columns. There are two numbers in each row. The first number represents the weighted percent of congregations in each row. The second number represents the weighted number of congregations in each row. Because of the sampling procedure employed in this study, the number of congregations is weighted, and it is difficult to interpret. You can find more information about the sampling technique and weighting used in this study in the codebook.
STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE
This information (following a crosstab table) tells you if the two variables in your table are related. By simply looking at the percentages in the table you can get a sense if the two variables you are examining are related to each other. In the example above, you might notice from examining the percentages in the table that having a conservative theological orientation appears to be related to having longer sermons. However, since the numbers presented in the table are based on information from a random sample of 1,331 congregations in the United States in 2012 – not from a census of all congregations – it is important to assess how confident we can be that the relationship observed in this sample of 1,331 congregations also is present among all congregations in the United States.
The test for statistical significance allows you to determine if the two variables are related to each other. The note at the bottom of each table indicates whether or not the association between two variables is statistically significant in the population of all U.S. congregations. If the association is significant at the .05 (.01) level, you may conclude with 95% (99%) confidence that the two variables in the table you are examining really are related to each other. If the association is not significant, there is better than a 5% (1%) chance that any differences in the table occur by chance and do not represent a real association between these two variables. In the example above, the significance value is less than .01, so it is correct to say with 99% confidence that a congregation's theological orientation is related to the length of a typical sermon heard in that congregation.
It is important to note that this "significance" test tells you only that the two congregational characteristics displayed in the table are related. It does not tell you anything about the nature of that relationship, nor does it tell you anything about how strongly the characteristics are related.
VALID PERCENT
These numbers (in a frequency table) tell you the percent of congregations that fall into each response category, ignoring the congregations with missing information on this topic. These figures are probably the most informative in the table, because the missing values are excluded from the calculation of the percentages.
NCS Wave III Report Released Dec 2015
 Over 3800 participating congregations representing 70+ Christian denominations, plus Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other religious groups
 Information on demographics, leadership, worship life, community engagement, and much more
 Contains data tables, graphs, and detailed analysis
Please complete our survey;
it's only one question!