Item description for Beyond the Ordinary: Ten Strengths of U.S. Congregations by Cynthia Woolever & Deborah Bruce...
Overview Taking an intricate look at vitality and health in congregations based on information gathered from the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey, the authors conclude that congregations have ten strengths, and that by building upon these strengths, congregations can transform their futures.
Results from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, the largest project of its type ever conducted in the United States, have prompted this second book from Westminster John Knox Press authors Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce. Their original work, "A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who's Going Where and Why," explores the practices and activities of worshipers in more than 2,000 U.S. congregations, encompassing more than 300,000 worshipers across a representative sample of denominations and faith groups. This book describes the qualities that are evident in strong congregations and develops congregational applications from those findings. Like the first book, it is helpfully illustrated with charts, graphs, and cartoons.
Citations And Professional Reviews Beyond the Ordinary: Ten Strengths of U.S. Congregations by Cynthia Woolever & Deborah Bruce has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Christian Century - 11/30/2004 page 40
Christian Century - 10/19/2004 page 35
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Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 10" Width: 8" Height: 0.4" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date Jan 5, 2004
Publisher Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN 0664226930 ISBN13 9780664226930
Availability 0 units.
More About Cynthia Woolever & Deborah Bruce
CYNTHIA WOOLEVER is research director of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, coeditor of The Parish Paper with Herb Miller and Lyle Schaller, and formerly a professor of sociology of religious organizations at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary. As a sociologist and consultant, she has focused on applied organizational research, working with congregations, judicatories, and seminaries throughout her twenty-five-year career. DEBORAH BRUCE (1955-2012) was associate research manager in the research services office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and project manager of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey. She worked in a variety of applied research settings before coming to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She served as an officer for the Religious Research Association and was a member of that organization and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
Reviews - What do customers think about Beyond the Ordinary: Ten Strengths of U.S. Congregations?
Interesting Survey Results, Positive Analysis Mar 8, 2006
Cynthia Woolever (of Hartford Seminary) and Deborah Bruce (of the Presbyterian Church-USA) present in "Beyond the Ordinary" the results of a major, nation-wide survey of congregations and church-members. The survey is unique in that it is intended to focus on the strengths of the various American congregations. To that end, ten strengths of American congregations are identified and explained, the inter-relationship between these strengths is explored, and the relationship (or lack thereof) between the particular strength and other variables (average age of the worshiper, size of the congregation, etc.) is explored. Each of the ten strengths is separately analyzed in its own chapter and the book includes an introductory chapter, concluding chapter, and several appendixes. The ten identified strengths include:
1. Growing Spiritually 2. Meaningful Worship 3. Participating in the Congregation 4. Having a Sense of Belonging 5. Caring for Children and Youth 6. Focusing on the Community 7. Sharing Faith 8. Welcoming New People 9. Empowering Leadership 10. Looking to the Future
After examining each individual strength, Woolever and Bruce placed a special focus on the congregations who were in the top 20% of this strength to examine what the remaining 80% of congregations can learn from them.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I appreciated the focus on the positives and subsequent optimistic approach to the narrative. Speaking of the narrative, the writing style was easy and flowing, interspersed with charts, graphs, shaded boxes exploring "myths," and even cartoons illustrating points. The fact that the authors did address myths was appreciated by this reader as myths often become "quick fix" solutions ("if we'd only change our worship style...") that have little basis in reality. Also appreciated was the interrelationship between the various strengths.
The book does however leave me wondering about certain things. One problematic aspect is the methodology employed. Many of the questions appeared to be subjective in nature ("do you feel your spiritual needs are being met in your church"). While the authors did attempt to craft a question that tried to run the gamut from the large liturgical church to the small charismatic church, there are many avenues to "meet spiritual needs" that would have been helpful to me-quality of music, various aspects of preaching, length of worship service, etc. Furthermore, the manner in which the survey results were presented tended to confuse me. If a church that is strong in community involvement tends to lose members, why is it considered a strong-point? Why is it that congregations that place a strong emphasis on faith-sharing and evangelism tend to be shrinking congregations? Finally (and probably purposefully), few "answers" were provided in this book concerning the identification of a particular congregation's strengths and how best to capitalize on said strengths. Overall, I would recommend this book and also suggest the reading of "Surprising Insights from the Unchruced" by Thom Rainer to compliment "Beyond the Ordinary."