A few weeks ago, Rev. Dr. Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi began to share some of the findings from the study of multiply-affiliated congregations. As part of the ongoing series, I would like to present some of the statistically significant similarities and differences — in other words, the reliable and real differences or similarities between ecumenical congregations and non-ecumenical (or singly-affiliated) UCC congregations. The highlighted fields in the tables below indicate where statistically significant differences were found.
We began by looking at the church demographic information that we collect annually within the denominational Data Hub. Note that ecumenical churches have a higher average worship attendance than the average non-ecumenical UCC church, even though the average memberships are nearly the same. We attribute this to what may be the difference in annual reporting methods. A federated congregation is more likely to mandate separate membership lists for each denomination they are affiliated with. Therefore, when reporting membership the figure only represents UCC members; whereas, worship attendance includes all members.
Three of the UCC’s five annual special offerings — Neighbors In Need (NIN), Christmas Fund, and Strengthen the Church (STC) — receive significantly fewer dollars from ecumenical churches than other UCC churches. In addition, fewer ecumenical congregations give to all five offerings, which include basic denominational support. One of the main challenges that respondents told us with regard to being ecumenical was trying to find the right balance for financial giving and support. In some cases, the challenge is having to “divide the denominational mission gifts in half” and how this can be perceived as being “marginally interested” in particular offerings when, in actuality, the opposite is true. Another challenge with regard to being an ecumenical congregation is having to do “double everything” — double the meetings, responsibilities to denominations, and financial expectations which is evident in these offerings figures.
Significantly more ecumenical congregations self-identify ethnically as Asian/Pacific Islander than in the UCC as a whole. This is also clear when viewing the diversity of UCC denominational partnerships, which Kristina previously shared. For example, the Kosrae Congregational Church has origins in the Federated States of Micronesia (Island of Kosrae) and was formed in relationship to the Congregational Church.
Aside from these differences, however, we find that there are more similarities between both groups than differences demographically, such as the development of a youth and/or faith formation program and the average expenses necessary to operate the church.
In looking at clergy differences, there a significant increase in the percentage of male clergy serving in ecumenical churches, who also on average have been ordained longer than clergy of the singly UCC congregations. For me, this raises several questions about what pastoral experiences and/or skill(s) are necessary to lead and bring denominational differences together in a successful way. You can also see that the significant difference in the number of Asian/Pacific Islander congregations is reflected in the clergy as well, with Asian/Pacific Islander clergy making up a larger percentage within ecumenical congregations. Again, this is attributed to the increase in ethnic diversity within these denominational partnerships.
We also compared findings from the identical questions around worship attributes between the ecumenical survey and the FACT 2010 Survey. Multiply-affiliated congregations are more likely to hold more than one weekly worship service; and these services are more likely to vary in style from each other. Survey responses suggest this could be attributed to serving bilingual community congregations and the varying theological outlooks of the regularly participating adults. In addition, multiply-affiliated congregations are more likely to have changed their worship style in the past five years. This makes sense since the needs of the community members and/or the church leadership change over time; and it could be that their openness to ecumenical relationships allows for more change and experimentation to be brought into the life of these congregations. One piece of evidence to support this theory is that the majority of survey respondents claimed to customize worship by mixing traditions and utilizing a variety of resources in order to find the right balance for their unique congregation; therefore, experimentation and change with worship is more acceptable within multiply-affiliated churches.
Overall, we found more similarities than differences between ecumenical and non-ecumenical congregations; but the areas where differences could hints to how singly-affiliated UCC congregations might become more flexible in worship and more ethnically diverse.
Stay tuned for more results in coming weeks!