Documentation & Method

Overview

The following documentation is intended to provide detailed and transparent information to research participants, other academic researchers, and the general public. The first section below includes documentation concerning the research process and funding and will be most relevant to participants and the general public. The second section includes information and documentation on the project’s methodology and research ethics. Because the exploratory meta-analysis is evolving throughout the project, information on its methodology includes regular updates and timestamps.

 

Development & History of the Project

In 2018, Wesley Theological Seminary entered into a discussion with leaders of the Lilly Endowment, Inc. about the potential for a multiple year study of the “religious workforce”. At the time, the workforce was understood to mean both those who are paid and unpaid staff or significant volunteers working in Christian congregations.

That year, Wesley Theological Seminary and its Lewis Center for Church Leadership was awarded a planning grant to prepare a multi-year research grant application. This period of preparation included both individual and group consultations with leading scholars and denominational leaders on a range of subjects including previous congregational studies, finance and labor economics, and research methods. At the end of that year, The Lewis Center submitted a proposal for what is today Phase I of The Religious Workforce Project. In the spring of 2019, The Lewis Center was awarded a $2 million grant by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to fund this groundbreaking research initiative.

The Religious Workforce Project began that summer with the appointment of Tim Snyder as Senior Researcher at The Lewis Center for Church Leadership and principal investigator. In early fall, the project added Amy Kubichek as Research Associate and lead analyst for the meta-analysis study. Also that fall, the project initiated a pilot study to test select research processes and methods described in the original proposal. The pilot project provided the opportunity to refine many of the procedures and research instruments. Led by Lovett Weems, the Project began building key relationships across US denominations and church leadership networks.

In early 2020, the Religious Workforce Project named a distinguished group of scholars and other institutional leaders to its Advisory Group (link to Team page).

Through a new partnership with American University, the Project’s “DMV Study” received “exempt status” from its Institutional Review Board (documentation below). The qualitative study began recruitment in February 2020 but was forced to suspend all research activities in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, the meta-analysis has continued to build relationships and secure formal data-sharing agreements.

After consultation with members of its Advisory Group in the summer of 2020, the qualitative study resumed research activities in September with new measures to protect researchers and participants. All research activities are conducted using video conferencing or under strict safety protocols.

 

DMV Study: Research Method & Ethics

The DMV Study includes the following research procedures: congregational questionnaire, key informant interviews, worship observations, and organizational meeting observations. The basic procedures include recruitment, scheduling, fieldwork, follow-up, and analysis.

The qualitative study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of American University.

IRB Application

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IRB Application Appendices

IRB Approval Letter

 

Recruiting Instruments

Telephone Prompts for Recruiters

Sample Letter of Invitation

About the Researchers

 

Fieldwork Instruments

Key Informant Interview Protocols

Informed Consent Form

 

Meta-Analysis Study: Documentation

The partnerships for the meta-analysis build on the long-standing reputation of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership as a thought-leader in the Mainline Protestant tradition. To date, this study has seven formal data-sharing arrangements with US denominations, including the following. In some cases, denominations have been able to share congregational trend data. In other cases, they have been able to share both congregational trend data and clergy data.

 

American Baptist Church (2000-2019)

Data Request

Data Sharing Letter

 

Church of the Nazarene (2000-2019)

Data Request

Data Sharing Letter

 

Disciples of Christ (2000-2019)

Data Request

Data Sharing Letter

 

The Episcopal Church (2000-2019)

Data Request

Data Sharing Letter

 

Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (2000-2019)

Data Request

Data Sharing Letter

 

United Methodist Church (2000-2018)

Data Request

Data Sharing Letter

 

United Church of Christ – (2000-2019)

Data Request

Data Sharing Letter

 

Additional national survey data has supplemented our meta-analysis. The following studies have been included to date. The availability of the associated data is indicated in each case.

 

National Congregations Study, Waves 3 and 4

Principal Investigator: Mark Chaves
Sponsoring Institution: Duke University
Availability of Data: Public