Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Adults finding faith: a study of conversion amongst Protestant mainline churches

The Institute of Evangelism and Church Development at University of Greifswald has undertaken research into adult's finding faith and conversion, as a result of this research they have published the following:

Adults Finding Faith
A study of conversion among the German protestant mainline churches (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland)
TEN Theses

1.      A central issue: Conversion is not a phenomenon on the margins

-          Conversion takes place in the centre of a mainline church environment (or “Volkskirche”).
-          Converts are people coming from the centre of society.
-          In the sampe of the the study, a majority is well educated and middle class or upper middle class.

2.      Conversions are experienced in a wide range of different experiences (Greifswald’s typology of conversion – “Greifswalder Konversionstypologie”)

The “Greifswald Typology of Conversion” makes use of three types to describe conversion pathways.
-          “growth in confidence” (“Vergewisserung”): People already affiliated to church life experience an assurance of their faith.
-          “discovery” (“Entdeckung”): Church members with a loose relation to church discover Christian faith for themselves.
-          “turn” or “break” (“Lebenswende”): People who are not members of the church and who were not brought up as Christians have now begun to believe.
Our empirical data revealed that conversion experiences are even more sophisticated. A distinction has to be made between the social background, i.e. the degree to which people are affiliated to a church, and the religious experience of the conversion process.

3.      Mission is possible

Mission is necessary – even in Germany – and it works. Contrary to what used to be a common perception, a good number of our converts profess that they had grown up in a social environment where church and faith had played no role whatsoever.

4.      Conversion can have to do with personal crises – but not necessarily

On the one hand, 96% of our converts say that they did experience significant crises – negative or positive. On the other hand, only 40% said that support by the church or individual Christians during these times was important for their faith journey.

5.      Advocats of conversion

Persons and relationships play a vital role in the conversion process – but it is different persons at different stages of the process.

6.      Supportive Church Activities

During a conversion process, a wide range of church activities support the converts on their faith journey. They are less helpful in attracting people from outside the church, but they work in encouraging people who are already to some degree affiliated.

7.      Nurture courses (“Glaubenskurse”)

Nurture courses are important for all types of conversion, and to largely the same degree.

8.      Prayer

The experience of conversion is accompanied by a fresh experience of prayer.

9.      Rituals

The stage of commitment in the conversion process is supported by various forms of ritual within church life, often more than one or two different forms.

10. Consequences

Converts are more religious than other people, they experience God in a positive way and they have a stronger sense of belonging to church than before.

For more information about the Institute of Evangelism and Church Development visit http://www-alt.uni-greifswald.de/~theol/~ieeg/english.html