Out of Ur, Christianity Today’s blog, features Dr. Brad Wright and his analysis of the Willow Creek survey and REVEAL. Of course, this blog had that info on my January 8 post, Willow Creek Study Flawed Says Prof. If Out of Ur picked it up here, it’s nice to be noticed. But whether they did or not, it means that Dr. Wright’s analysis is getting noticed by the wider blogosphere, which will be helpful for all of us in the church conversation. I encourage you to read Wright’s 11-post analysis for yourself. Good insights.
Bradley 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:
- Willow Creek’s study is a marketing study more appropriate for “brands” than people.
- 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.
- Willow Creek’s 4-stage spiritual growth categories are weak. Wright introduces Starke and Glock’s more detailed identification of religious categories.
- 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.
- 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)
Debbie and I have been visiting our daughters and their families between Christmas and New Year. Hope your Christmas was wonderful and you spent it with those you love, too. As we close 2007, here are the Confessions of A Small Church Pastor “Top 10 Posts of 2007″ —
My Five Rules for Pastoring a Small Church — Technically this was posted in 2006, but it was the lead-off post here, and had been revisited many times.
Don’t Quit — This is my story of quitting the ministry for 12-years and why you should not. Lots of comments and off-line conversations about this one. Share this with your friends who are thinking about quitting.
The Day I Went To A Strip Club — This gets lots of hits! And it’s a true story with an unusual twist.
This Easter Outreach Idea Works — True story of an outreach idea we used that is simple, effective, and involves everybody. Let me know if you try it and how it works for your church.
Where Is God in Our Tragedy? — This post is the sermon I preached to our church following the tragic mass murders at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Our church is about 2-hours from VT, many of our members are alums, and we are part of “The Hokie Nation.” Christianity Today picked up a portion of the sermon on their Leadership website.
Vision: An Overblow Concept — Lots of response to this post and my view of the “vision-thing” as George H W Bush characterized it.
Community Center Groundbreaking — This happened in June and marked two years of work to get to this point. 40-kids from the Boys and Girls Club donned “hard hats” and grabbed pint-sized shovels to turn the dirt for construction to begin. We’ll move in April, 2008, so it’s getting closer.
Five Ideas for Repurposing Your Sunday School — This post got picked up and passed around among some denominational Sunday School leaders and thinkers.
Willow Creek Study Says Church Programs Don’t Work — This is the all-time leader with thousands of views and lots of buzz. Why are we so taken with Willow Creek?
6 Shifts in the Church and How Your Church Can Benefit — Thanks to those who picked this up and bandied it about. If anything 2008 will prove these shifts to be even more true. Question is, do we get it?
So there they are — the top 10. And there were some of my favorites that didn’t make the cut, particularly the stories of people in my church and community. Browse around for some more stuff. And thanks for stopping by every day or once-a-week or once-in-a- while. I appreciate it and hope 2007 has been a good year for you. See you next year!