Join our mailing list

Hartford Institute for Religion Research

Hartford Institute is a religion research center of Hartford Seminary. For three decades, the Institute has explored denominational growth and congregational vitality. The site is a resource for clergy, laity and students striving to understand religion in America.

Since 1985, Hartford Seminary's Hartford Institute for Religion Research has had a record of rigorous, policy-relevant research, anticipation of emerging issues and commitment to the creative dissemination of learning. This record has earned the Institute an international reputation as an important bridge between the scholarly community and the practice of faith.

The Dimensions of the Institute's Work

Research is at the heart of what we do - gathering reliable information about what is happening in religious life today. Groundbreaking studies on the movement of women into the role of clergy and timely assessment of trends in church membership are two of the many ways in which we seek to measure how people of faith are forming and re-forming their institutions. Changes in theological seminaries and in national denominational structures have received the Hartford Institute's careful attention, as have the dynamics and community contributions of congregations. Institute personnel and projects have pioneered methods for the study of congregations, including a national multi-faith survey that is gathering unprecedented, comprehensive data on the nation's congregations.

Communication of the findings of projects receives as much creative attention as does the gathering of the data. Hartford Institute projects have resulted in an impressive list of books in recent years, and an equally impressive list of news outlets where Institute findings and staff are quoted. From the New York Times to The Wall Street Journal to the ABC television network, when reporters need to understand religious life in the U.S., they are likely to call on faculty at the Institute. Today the World Wide Web provides creative new avenues for making research findings accessible to a broad public of religious leaders and concerned citizens. Thousands visit the Institute's website each month. This site, established in 1997, includes up-to-date survey findings, reports on national studies of religion and venues for interactive exchange of knowledge.

The Education work of the Hartford Institute happens in classrooms and workshops and retreats, both at Hartford Seminary and around the world. Institute faculty form the core of Hartford Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program, and regularly serve as a partner with seminaries, universities, and other agencies in sharing research-based education. Institute faculty have contributed to a national program of leadership education for pastors and denominational and religious agency personnel, as well as regularly addressing a broad spectrum of academic audiences. The Biennial Congregational Studies Institute is perhaps our best known educational effort, renowned for its mobilizing impact on those who participate.

Research informs our work when Hartford Institute faculty provide consultation to congregations, seminaries, denominations and area councils of churches and synagogues, for groups that range from Methodist to Mormon, from Mennonite to Muslim to Missouri Synod Lutheran. Each consultation program is shaped to address concerns of particular constituent groups, from the storefront to the megachurch, from practical questions of budget and management to elusive challenges of congregational spiritual identity and individual faith commitments. For many groups, this assistance has included commissioned research by the Institute.

Consultation with local congregations also includes the Hartford Institute's church assessment inventories (Parish Profile, Pastoral Search & Church Planning Inventories). Hundreds of churches have used these inventories since the 1980's.

Its website has three primary purposes:

  1. To present summaries of current religion research by Hartford Institute for Religion Research faculty as well as the research done by other sociologists of religion.
  2. By making this research available online, we hope to educate pastors, denominational leaders, religion reporters and the general public in a better understanding of research on religion in order to help create stronger communities of faith and a more informed society.
  3. Finally, we hope to assist the site's users in understanding the use of statistics and poll data, designing church websites, on searching the web for information, and the implications of the Internet on religious life.