Congregational growth, closure, identity, and diversity.
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Maier, Jared E.
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Despite stories of secularization in America, congregations still possess power as one of America's most prolific social organizations. Their power can be seen by the fact that congregations receive the highest proportion of philanthropic donations of any social institution (Hoge, Zech, McNamara, and Donahue 1996), and are the greatest outlet of voluntarism in the United States (Putnam 2000). This dissertation explores four central issues pertaining to congregations: growth, closure, identity, and diversity. Heterogeneity by age is related to growth in American congregations, while homogeneity by belief is related to congregational growth in Evangelical congregations. Age liabilities of newness and oldness are associated with closure in congregations that have a free-church tradition. Beliefs stand out above denominational affiliation and self-identification in terms of identifying who is Evangelical. Finally, there is potential of racially diverse congregations to assist in the changing of attitudes and actions toward people of a different race.