Willow Creek study flawed says prof

bradley-wright.jpgBradley Wright, associate professor in the sociology of Christianity at the University of Connecticut, has the best analysis of the Willow Creek study I have seen. Wright comes at it from a social science viewpoint, which is appropriate. He commends Willow Creek for tackling the survey, but critiques their methodology and interpretation.

Wright says that Willow Creek made the following mistakes:

  1. Willow Creek’s study is a marketing study more appropriate for “brands” than people.
  2. Willow Creek over-interpreted the data. Social science studies are more nuanced and results are less dramatic. Particularly helpful is Wright’s discussion of ‘regression to the mean’ in understanding spiritual growth.
  3. Willow Creek’s 4-stage spiritual growth categories are weak. Wright introduces Starke and Glock’s more detailed identification of religious categories.
  4. Willow Creek has no control group in its survey data. The result is that there is no benchmark to gauge how other non-WC church members or even non-church members of any group ‘grow’ compared to WC members.
  5. Willow Creek’s survey is a snapshot, but a longitudinal (long-term) study needs to be done to track the same group over time.

Wright’s analysis is helpful and if you can read all 11-posts on the WC survey, you’ll come away with a lot of good info. Before we all follow Willow Creek off another cliff, Wright offers solid, congenial, and helpful perspectives that should be a lesson for all churches in understanding spiritual growth. Also shows that even a Willow Creek doesn’t get it right all the time.

(Clarification:  The use of the word ‘flawed’ in the headline is my choice, not a quote from Wright who avoids using that term directly.  However, Wright’s 11-post series analyzing the survey design and execution led me to the conclusion that Wright is telling us there are serious flaws in every aspect of WC’s process. — cw)

3 thoughts on “Willow Creek study flawed says prof”

  1. Chuck, I just found your blog–very interesting! I might have to contact you and ask for “tips” on improving the organization and appearance of my own!

    I apologize if I am being uncharitable, but I find that Richard Land’s comments reflect a long history of partisan and often volatile commentary without regard to the views of others. He is a tool for the very conservative majority in the Southern Baptist Convention and you can follow his thinking right to the end of the money pot at the end of the rainbow. If he does not play to the constituency with copycat comments like these, the money and his employment will run dry.

  2. Tom,
    Thanks for your comments and glad you found your way here. For some reason, your comment about Richard Land ended up here, rather than under that thread, but that’s okay with me. If you like, you can find the Land post, then re-comment there. Or not, whatever you like. In any event, thanks.

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