The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is working with churches and congregations in Little Rock for the 2020 Little Rock Congregations Study.
This year’s study asks congregation members about the community issues that are important to them. One of the long-term goals of the research is to bring together congregations and nonprofit organizations that would like to partner together to tackle Little Rock’s biggest problems.
“We are excited to work with these congregations through this community-based research project, because we see it as a mutually beneficial way that the university and the community can connect,” said Dr. Rebecca Glazier. “Our students get a hands-on research experience they will never forget, and participating congregations get a professional report on the attitudes and well-being of their members. The students are contributing so much passion and creativity to this project to make it possible to do community-based research in the middle of a pandemic.”
The Little Rock Congregations Study is led by UA Little Rock professors Rebecca Glazier, Gerald Driskill, and Kirk Leach, in consultation with the project’s Clergy Advisory Board, a group of eight clergy members in Little Rock who advise the Little Rock Congregations Study. Currently, 36 congregations are participating in the study, and thousands of congregation members will have the opportunity to complete the survey distributed through their place of worship. The online survey will be available until Nov. 1.
“As a student researcher that is passionate about helping people, I am excited about how the data we collect will impact congregations and nonprofits,” said Alanna Tatum, a Master of Public Administration student from North Little Rock. “This study is going to connect people that want to serve to people that need to be helped in our community.”
Every congregation that participates 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 the community. The report will also connect congregations and nonprofit organizations with similar community service goals.
“We ask questions about how they are doing spiritually, the community issues that matter to them, and where they would like to get involved,” Glazier said. “The reports the students will help produce will include information on how to connect with nonprofits and other congregations working on the issues that matter most to each congregation’s members, so we hope our work will help facilitate collaboration.”
Glazier and her student researchers have been surveying and interviewing religious leaders since the summer and in the current stage of the research, they are now surveying individual congregation members. Some of the study’s early research looked at how religious leaders in Arkansas are growing more concerned with the issue of race relations in the U.S. After hosting a Little Rock Religious Leaders Summit last year, the Little Rock Congregations Study research team decided to address questions of race and social justice.
“The work which we are doing gives us the opportunity to bring our community closer together both religiously and socially. Throughout our studies, we are striving to discover the impact religious, religious institutions, and their ideals have in the city of Little Rock,” said Issac Thomas, a political science and history major from Ashdown, Arkansas. “I believe that the research we do now will be a precept by which the social issues facing not only our own city, but the wider world, can be mitigated.”