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Scott L. Thumma

Professor of Sociology of Religion and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
Director, Hartford Institute for Religion Research

B.A. (Southwestern University);
M.Div. (Candler School of Theology);
Ph.D. (Emory University)

Research on Megachurches, Homosexuality and Religion, Religion and the Internet, and Congregational Studies

email: sthumma@hartsem.edu
phone: (860) 509-9542
fax: (860) 509-9551

Bio. & interests | Curriculum Vitae | Online Writings  | Courses Taught

Biographical Sketch and Interests

My favorite research interest at the moment is trying to understand the implications of Internet technologies for congregational life.  However, my more legitimate research interests include the study of megachurches, nondenominational congregations, the interface between religion and homosexuality, congregational studies, the types and expressions of religious authority and leadership, and qualitative methodologies in studying congregations.

At present, I have a number of articles and research reports on the web.  Among these are quite a few about megachurches, including several research reports I did for the Faith Communities Today 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2011 study on megachurches. In 1997, 2000 and 2011, I did national studies on nondenominational congregations.

My latest book is entitled The Other 80%: Turning Your Church's Spectators into Active Participants. The book is a mix of original analysis of national research on attenders, many field studies and hundreds of interviews as well as reflections on cultural shifts related to volunteering and observed patterns from our studies of church leadership teams.  It offers a diversity of approaches for dealing with this 20/80 problem (20% of the people do 80% of the work while most of the rest do nothing) and various strategies by which a church's leadership might begin to address the issues of member mobilization and discipleship. 

Dave Travis and I have co-written a book using our megachurch experiences and data entitled Beyond Megachurch Myths.

You can also read my dissertation about one particular megachurch, Chapel Hill Harvester Church/The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

You can also find the text of two talks I gave on religion and the Internet, one on issues of spirituality and cyberspace and the other on the use of the Internet by religious organizations and a report on a mini-study my students and I did with church webmasters. More writing about churches and Internet technologies will soon be on the web.

I  have also posted one of my articles about the relationship between homosexuality and Evangelicalism on the site.  You can also read more about my co- edited book, Gay Religion

Several presentations I wrote from the data of the Organizing Religious Work project are also online. These include an extensive discussion of the nondenominational churches phenomenon and local religious ecologies.

In a sense, this entire web site is a collection of my bookmarked sites that I have found helpful in the social scientific study of religion.  Many of my favorite links are included in our pages related to Sociology of Religion and Congregational Studies pages or those found on the religion and the web and homosexuality and religion sections.  If you are interested in my research and what I have written, a list of my publications is contained in my vita.

In case you are interested, here's some information about who I am:

I am a faculty member at Hartford Seminary with my academic home being the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.  In this position I teach in the Seminary, do research, and advise students. Also, I direct our Church Survey Inventory service. 

Additionally, Joe Coalter and I coordinate a Lilly Endowment project to assist organizations in improving their web presence. As a part of this effort, I am responsible for the portal site Insights into Religion

Prior to my appointment at Hartford Seminary I taught at several institutions in and around Atlanta, GA as an adjunct faculty person.  I also had a social and religious research consulting firm for a number of years.  Occasionally I still consult with churches, religious leaders and denominational groups.

I have a  Ph.D. in religion from Emory University, an M.Div. from Candler School of Theology and a B.A. from Southwestern University.

One might assume from my educational choices that my childhood religious affiliation is Methodist, however, that is not the case.  I grew up independent Baptist, although many of my kin are Mennonite.  I have been involved over the years with Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, and Southern Baptist congregations, with nondenominational megachurches, and with small independent charismatic fellowships.  At present I do not belong to any congregation.  I think of myself not as someone affiliated with a denomination but as a spiritual person who occasionally affiliates with particular congregations.

I am married to a wonderful spouse, Jennifer and we have three children, Katherine, Benjamin and Madeline.  In addition we have three cats (Panera, LC, and Socks).  And, after all this, if you are still interested in learning more about my life... you need to get a life of your own!

Courses Taught:

  • Megachurches: What Can My Church Learn from These Giants
  • Contemporary American Religion
  • Varieties of Gay Religious Life
  • American Religious History
  • Religion as a Social Phenomenon: The Sociological Study of Religion
  • D.Min. Colleague Seminar I 
  • Religion and the Web
  • Congregational Studies Institute
  • Pentecostalism
  • The Death of Denominations?:  An Investigation into the Changing shape of Religious Organizations
  • Sociology of Religion

    For more information on these Hartford Seminary courses, send an email to: courses@hartsem.edu.


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