When Rebecca Glazier first began the Little Rock Congregations Study in 2012, her goal was to learn about faith-based community engagement and to provide her students with an opportunity to learn outside the classroom. In 2020, her goal is to use the results to make a difference in the community by bringing together congregations and nonprofits who want to tackle Little Rock’s biggest problems.
“Last year, we brought in over 50 clergy leaders in Little Rock and asked what are the most important issues facing the city,” Glazier said. “We learned that one of the key things congregations struggled with was connecting across these issues and finding other congregations and nonprofit organizations that were working on the same issues. They wanted a better way to work together to help solve problems facing the community.”
The 2020Little Rock Congregations Study will move completely online. This move will allow significantly more people to participate in the survey and for the data to be compiled more easily.
“We have learned that when congregations serve the community, it creates a culture of service that also leads members to serve in their own places of worship,” Glazier said. “We have learned that growing congregations are significantly more likely to be led by clergy who are engaged in the community.”
The surveys have been prepared by an interdisciplinary research team at UA Little Rock, including Glazier and UA Little Rock professors Dr. Gerald Driskill and Dr. Kirk Leach, in consultation with the Clergy Advisory Board, a group of eight clergy members in Little Rock who advise the Little Rock Congregations Study.
Graduate and undergraduate student researchers are also part of the Little Rock Congregations Study team. UA Little Rock students participating in a course on religion and community will be working on this project and helping to write reports that will be shared with each congregation and with the broader community during the fall 2020 semester. Researchers are working with individual congregations to send the survey to all of their members.
“We know being physically distant from each other in places of worship has been hard,” Leach said. “This survey provides an opportunity for leaders and members to reconnect and share how they are doing.”
Every congregation will receive a report that includes data on demographics; worship service attendance; mental, physical, and spiritual health; congregational and community engagement; perceptions of community and racial unity and division; and ways members desire to serve. A unique feature of the report is that leaders will learn of other congregations and nonprofits that share a desire to collaborate on specific community needs. The research team is currently recruiting places of worship to participate.
“I think the work of the Little Rock Congregations Study provides a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about what congregations and other religious groups are contributing to the community and also more comprehensive information about what the members of our individual congregations care about and value,” said Lindy Vogado, associate pastor at Second Presbyterian Church and member of the Clergy Advisory Board. “We hope the information we gain from this study will help us to serve our neighbors better.”
The most important data congregations will receive in Glazier’s opinion is information that will hopefully build partnerships between congregations and nonprofits who wish to combine resources to take on a community issue affecting Little Rock.
“Leaders will receive data on whether their members think their place of worship should be involved in helping to solve the community issues they see as most important and whether the members would be willing to volunteer on those issues,” Glazier said. “Because we know how important collaboration is to religious leaders, for each of the top three community issues of concern to their congregants, we will include the contact information for other congregations and nonprofits currently working on those issues. These reports will provide immediate, valuable data to leaders to know what matters to their members and how to get engaged.”
“We continue to learn that we are better together,” Driskill said. “We can tackle the most difficult challenges when we collaborate. This survey will aid us all in working together toward bigger dreams–toward building hope.”
The surveys are expected to be available to fill out online between Oct. 1 to Nov. 2. Congregations who are interested in participating in the 2020 Little Rock Congregations Study may contact Glazier at firstname.lastname@example.org.