Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations: Innovation Amidst and Beyond COVID-19
Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations project is a five-year research project funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. The focus of this expansive initiative is to research, collect, and disseminate data about the possible changes and long-term implications the pandemic might have on religious life across the United States. Our project is gathering both broad, nationally representative surveys and detailed ethnographic case studies of how religious congregations are changing and adapting in the wake of COVID-19. Through our website for this project, congregational and denominational leaders, religious scholars, and the general public will have free access to a growing repository of curated resources, practical tools, and guidance—drawn from our own research and from our cross-denominational partners.
The Pastoral Innovation Network of New England
Under the leadership of Allison Norton and Scott Thumma, The PINNE (Pastoral Innovation Network of New England) initiative creates a cross-denominational innovation hub, where 20 creative, early-career clergy interact with experienced coaches to highlight effective approaches to ministry in the New England context. In ten gatherings over two years, pastor participants will problem solve, identify resources, grow professionally, maximize their creative and innovative potential, and move toward their visions for ministry revitalization. This network enhances participants’ customized and contextualized efforts toward innovation through coaching, conversations around pastoral challenges, the voluntary undertaking of a project of congregational change, and opportunities to mentor one another. PINNE thus facilitates adaptive engagement with the unique ministry challenges of New England, and also seeks to improve ministry across New England by disseminating the learnings to clergy and denominations in the region.
Faith Communities Today
Under the leadership of Scott Thumma, Susan Barnett, and Sarah Brown, the "Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership" brought together more than 40 participants from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Bahai' and Orthodox Church organizations to develop cooperative congregational survey research in conjunction with the census in 2000 and then in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2015 and 2020. By developing common procedures, comparable instruments and coordinated schedules it will become possible to share data on all forms of congregational life throughout the United States. The resulting national data enables pastors, church leaders and scholars to make unprecedented comparisons among congregations and denominations.
Church Inventory and Consulting Services
Hartford Institute has a long history of expertise in theoretically-informed practical research on congregations and denominations. The faculty and staff of the Institute applied this knowledge to the design of several survey instruments for local congregations. These instruments can assist congregations in understanding their unique culture, shape its programmatic agenda, and conduct pastoral searches. Interested church leaders are encouraged to follow the link below for more information or contact the Institute's office.
Continuing National Megachurch Research
Hartford Institute facultyperson Scott Thumma along with Warren Bird of ECFA.org collaborate in the study of megachurches on a national level. They have done national surveys of megachurches in 2000, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2015 and 2020. Additionally, they investigation of the attitudes and interests of nearly 50,000 attenders of two dozen megachurches in 2007-08. The goal of this research is to provide more accurate information about these large churches and to track changes taking place in these innovative congregations.
New England Religion Discussion Society (NERDS)
NERDS was an informal gathering of scholars from various religious studies disciplines. The group would meet Two or three times a year at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary to discuss working papers or current projects of participants. A conference that includes this group of scholars will be held in winter 2021.