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U.S. Congregational Life Survey, Wave 2, 2008-2009, Random Sample Associate Leader Survey




Woolever, C., Bruce, D., Kopacz, J., & Smith-Williams, I. (2020, April 19). U.S. Congregational Life Survey, Wave 2, 2008-2009, Random Sample Associate Leader Survey.


Over 500,000 worshipers in more than 5,000 congregations across America participated in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey (Wave 1 and Wave 2) - making it the largest survey of worshipers in America ever conducted. Three types of surveys were completed in each participating congregation: (a) an attender survey completed by all worshipers age 15 and older who attended worship services during the weekend the survey was given; (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 principal leader. Together the information collected provides a unique three-dimensional look at religious life in America. (From Appendix 1, U.S. Congregational Life Survey Methodology, A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations, Second Edition).

This data file contains data for the Random Sample Associate Leader Survey for congregations participating in Wave 2 of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey. (U.S. Congregational Life Survey Wave 2 Random Sample Attender data, Congregational Profile data, and Leader data will be provided in separate data files.)

The ARDA has added five additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 321
Variables: 434
Weight Variable: NWT

Data Collection

Fall 2008 and Spring 2009

Original Survey (Instrument)

USCLS Wave 2 Associate Leader Survey

Funded By

The Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Louisville Institute
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Collection Procedures

Self-administered surveys

Sampling Procedures

The second sample (Wave 2) was identified and recruited by Harris Interactive. Of 1,330 congregations nominated and verified in the Wave 2 sample, 201 agreed to participate (15% of congregations) and 148 returned completed worshiper surveys (73% of those that agreed). Worshipers in these congregations completed 38,468 surveys. Congregations in the national random sample that participated in 2001 (Wave 1) were also invited by Harris Interactive to take part in Wave 2. In 2008, Harris Interactive verified and located 411 of the 434 congregations that participated in Wave 1. Of these, 145 agreed to participate in Wave 2 (35% of congregations), and 108 returned completed surveys from their worshipers (74% of those that agreed). These congregations returned 26,206 completed attender surveys.

An 8-page Leader Survey to be completed by the principal leader was included in the package sent out to churches participating in Wave 2. The package also included a separate business-reply envelope for leaders to mail back the survey to maintain their confidentiality. Key leaders could also complete the survey online. In addition, Harris Interactive made several attempts by mail and by telephone to contact the principal leader in each congregation that was nominated for the project but declined to participate in the worshiper portion of the study. After several reminders, incentives were offered to remaining non-respondents to encourage participation.

The Leader Survey in Wave 1 was funded by The Lilly Endowment, Inc., managed by Dr. Jackson Carroll (Pulpit and Pew, Duke University), and conducted by telephone by NORC. As in Wave 2, efforts were made by NORC to obtain completed leader surveys from congregations that chose not to participate in the in-worship survey. Results are summarized in God's Potters: Pastoral Leadership and the Shaping of Congregations.

Of the 1,741 congregations nominated and contacted in Wave 2, a total of 692 Leader Surveys were completed (39%). Wave 2 also included a Random Sample Associate Leader Survey, funded by the Louisville Institute, which included most of the same questions as the Leader Survey; in addition to a few questions specific to the Associate Leader Survey. In 2001 (Wave 1), Associate Leaders were not invited to fill out a survey. When Random Sample congregations were recruited to participate in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, they reported how many full-time paid leaders, clergy, and program staff (regardless of ordination status, but not including secretarial, clerical, or custodial staff) serve in the congregation. With the assumption that one of those staff members was the senior leader (who would complete the key Leader Survey described above), the appropriate number of Associate Leader Surveys were sent to each congregation, along with return envelopes to maintain confidentiality. A subsequent mailing to congregations that did not participate in the worship attender survey asked them to complete Leader and Associate Leader surveys. Associate Leader surveys were mailed to 407 congregations, and completed surveys were returned by 321 associate leaders serving in 162 congregations (39% of congregations sent Associate Leader surveys responded). Because the name of each associate pastor was unknown, PIs relied on the assistance of congregational staff both in providing accurate information about the number of associate pastors and in delivering surveys to associate pastors. The true number of associate pastors who received an associate leader survey is unknown. Thus, the response rate is an estimate only.

Principal Investigators

Cynthia Woolever, Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), co-principal investigator

Deborah Bruce, Associate Research Manager, Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), co-principal investigator

Joelle Kopacz, Research Assistant, Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Ida Smith-Williams, Associate for Information, Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Related Publications

A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who's Going Where and Why. Second Edition. 2010. Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Westminster John Knox Press.

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.

Places of Promise: Finding Strength in Your Congregation's Location. 2008. Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Westminster John Knox Press.

Leadership That Fits Your Church: What Kind of Pastor for What Kind of Congregation. 2012. Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Westminster John Knox Press.


Due to sampling procedures, large congregations were more likely to be identified. To compensate for size bias, data analyses should be weighted by size. The file contains a weighting variable (NWT) constructed through the following steps:
STEP 1. Calculate simple weight (WT)
STEP 2. Calculate the sum.
STEP 3.Take the number from SUM above and use in formula below.
COMPUTE NWT=(WT/SUM) * 321. [321 is number of cases]

Merging Datasets

The Random Sample Associate Leader data can be linked to the Random Sample Attender data, Congregational Profile data, or Leader data by the CONGREGA variable.

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