This chapter discusses six trends in congregational life: looser connections between congregations and denominations, more computer technology, more informal worship, older congregants, more high-income and college-educated congregants, and, what is perhaps most important, more people concentrated in very large churches. Taken together, these trends show that congregations are shaped by the same cultural, social, and economic pressures affecting American life and institutions more generally. The National Congregations Study (NCS), which began in 1998, is the primary source of information for several of the trends described in this chapter. As with change in American religion as a whole, trends in congregational life should be seen against the backdrop of substantial continuity, especially for the relatively brief period covered by the NCS.
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