U.S. Congregational Life Survey, 2001, Random Attenders Backfile

Data Archive > U.S. Surveys > Religious Groups > Congregations/Other Organizations > US Congregational Life Survey > Summary


“Over 300,000 worshipers in over 2,000 congregations across America participated in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey—-making it the largest survey of worshipers in America ever conducted. Three types of surveys were completed in each participating congregation: (a) an Attendee survey completed by all worshipers age 15 and older who attended worship services during the weekend of April 29, 2001; (b) a Congregational Profile describing the congregation’s facilities, staff, programs, and worship services completed by one person in the congregation; and (c) a Leader Survey completed by the pastor, priest, minister, rabbi, or other leader. Together the information collected provides a unique three-dimensional look at religious life in America.” (From Appendix 1, A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who’s Going Where and Why. U.S. Congregational Life Survey Methodology.) This data file contains data on financial contributions for Random sample Attenders only. The Congregational Life Survey also has a Congregational profile for Random Attenders.

Data File
Cases: 1,132
Variables: 34
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: April 29, 2001
Funded By
The Lilly Endowment, Inc.
The Louisville Institute
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Collection Procedures
Self-administered surveys
Sampling Procedures
“The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago identified a random sample of U.S. congregations attended by individuals who participated in the General Social Survey (GSS) in the year 2000. All GSS participants who reported that they attended worship at least once in the prior year were asked to name the place where they worshiped. Since the GSS involves a national random sample of individuals, congregations identified by GSS participants comprise a national random sample of congregations. NORC researchers verified that each nominated congregation was an actual congregation and then invited each congregation to participate in the project.”

“Denominations were also invited and encouraged to draw a random sample of their congregations. Denominational samples were large enough so that the results are representative of worshipers and congregations in each denomination. This allows denominations to compare their “typical” congregation and worshiper to congregations and worshipers in other denominations. Denominations participating in this oversampling procedure were: Church of the Nazarene, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Roman Catholic Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Southern Baptist Convention, United Methodist Church (UMC), and United Church of Christ (UCC).” (From Appendix 1, A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who’s Going Where and Why. U.S. Congregational Life Survey Methodology.)

Five versions of the attendee survey were used: Standard (for all non-Catholic congregations) in English (Form A), Standard in Spanish (Form A-S), Standard in Korean (Form A-K), Catholic in English (Form B), Catholic in Spanish (Form B-S). The major difference between the Catholic and Standard versions is the substitution of “Mass” for “worship service” and “priest” for “pastor.” In addition, leadership roles listed in ROLEGB, ROLECC, ROLECM, ROLELW, ROLELG, ROLEOT, and ROLENO were tailored to fit Catholic parishes, and several questions on the back page were replaced with ones that focus more directly on the Catholic experience. All congregations in the Catholic oversample and Catholic parishes in the Random sample received Catholic forms. The Standard survey was offered in Korean because of the prevalence of Korean congregations within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The PIs also used a variety of other forms (back page forms).  In every Random sample congregation, 85 percent of the attendee forms they mailed were the basic form (A or B).  The remaining 15 percent were evenly divided among 15 other forms—each with the same first three pages, but with a different back page.  These different forms were topical in nature (e.g., giving, spirituality and health, worship, etc.).  So in a congregation with 100 people, 85 Form A surveys were distributed, and one of each of 15 different options were distributed.  They determined the number of each type of survey to send to each congregation so that the overall totals would be balanced among the 15 different back-page variations.  Every congregation did not necessarily get every one of the 15 variations—congregations with fewer than 100 total forms would not have received all of the 15 different variations.  So some small congregations might have gotten forms F through L for their 15 percent and another might have gotten M through W and so on.  This procedure ensured that the PIs received enough completed forms of each of the different variations to be able to treat them as a random sample of worshipers.  Data from these back page forms are not being archived at this time.  In addition, each oversample used a similar procedure to distribute a variety of back page forms to worshipers in that sample.  This explanation is included so that those who use the data will understand why some worshipers lack data for items 110 (WORSHP1) - 121 (ACCOUNT) and 143 (DISTANC) - 166 (ROLEDK) that appeared on the back page of the standard survey.

Of invited congregations, 61 percent agreed to participate.  Of those that agreed to participate, 53.76 percent returned completed forms.  Of invited congregations, 33 percent returned completed forms. 

The random sample attender data can be linked to the random sample profile data by the CONGREGA variable.
Principal Investigators
Cynthia Woolever, Professor of Sociology of Religious Organizations, Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary, co-principal investigator

Keith Wulff, Coordinator of Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), co-principal investigator

Deborah Bruce, Associate Research Manager, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), project manager

Ida Smith-Williams, Associate for Information, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), data management specialist
Related Publications
A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who’s Going Where and Why. 2002. Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Westminster John Knox Press.

Beyond the Ordinary: 10 Strengths of U.S. Congregations. 2004. Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Other reports are listed at: http://www.USCongregations.org