If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it is that we must be flexible and willing to adapt at the drop of a hat. The COVID-19 pandemic forced leaders of all types of organizations, especially religious congregations, to reimagine their work and how to best serve their people. In order to adjust and make decisions, though, leaders need the right information. Conclusions drawn from bad information will be just that: bad.
This raises the question: where do we go for quality information and data? I would like to introduce you to one such source—The Association of Religion Data Archives (or the ARDA).
We at the ARDA are committed to providing free access to trustworthy data and resources that will allow you to find answers to the tough but essential questions you are asking about your congregation and community. We currently offer dozens of free online and interactive resources. Here are brief introductions to five of our most popular tools.
The Community Profile Builder provides free online information about any community in the United States. The initial map shows the locations of other congregations in a chosen area using any zip code, city and state, or complete address. The Profile Builder then gathers and displays the social, economic, and religious information about the selected community or neighborhood.
The Profile Builder draws these data from several sources including the US Census and the Religious Congregations and Membership Study. Congregational leaders and pastors use this resource to gain a data-driven sense of a given congregation’s context. This information helps them to know how best to serve their communities, as well as what types of ministries their congregations might consider starting. For instance, you can answer questions like “Does our congregation match the demographics of our surrounding community,” “Are there a lot of families with young children around my congregation or primarily older adults” or “Are there areas near my congregation where the poverty rate is high?”
The ARDA also offers eight free Community Profile Builder Guides that assist users with detailed directions and thoughts on how to interpret and best use the Community Profile. Prior users share how the Community Profile Builder helped them better understand the needs of their neighbors, figure out where to start a new ministry, and decide how their faith communities could best reach out to their physical communities.
The ARDA is a massive site with mountains of data about hundreds of religious groups and denominations operating in the United States. Our Denominational Landing Pages brings all of the ARDA's information on the largest denominations and religious groups in the US onto dedicated webpages for each group.
Want to know how many Southern Baptists adherents there are in the US over the decades, which US counties have the most Catholics, or where the United Methodist Church congregations are located in your community? Users are also able to view membership maps by state. Find all this and more on these 23 dedicated webpages.
The Congregational Resource Center on the ARDA is a one-stop shop for resources useful to congregations. The Congregational Resource Center includes a “Did You Know” section that highlights answers on the ARDA to some commonly asked questions. These include broad questions like “What do Americans believe and how do they behave?”, “How does my congregation/religious tradition compare to others?”, and “Where can I find data on religion around the world?” with sub-questions included under each.
The Congregational Resource Center also contains various helpful guides for congregations. These free resources allow priests, pastors, or lay leaders to discover more information about their communities or create a pin map of where all their congregants live.
Our QuickLists resource provides the best available data on American and international religion in rank order. Clicking on any of the available links expands your options. Users can explore the percent religious adherence rate of every US county, metro area, or state for hundreds of religious groups and search by broader religious tradition or by religious families.
QuickLists also allows users to compare nations, regions of the world, and world religions, including which nations rank highest on the “Human Development Index” or “Restriction of Economic Freedom,” among many other indices. The tool also provides information on which countries have the highest proportion of agnostics, atheists, Christians, or Muslims, among numerous others, including the rank order of largest world religions. Any group interested in serving overseas could use QuickLists as a great place to begin to understand the context of where they are traveling.
In a similar spirit to our Denominational Landing Pages, our National Profiles bring together mounds of information and data for over 250 nations of the world. Users can find a short history and the religious composition for each nation on each summary page. We also include indices that measure the religious regulation, religious minority discrimination, state funding of religions, and society discrimination of minority religions on each summary page.
Digging deeper you will find breakdowns of the number adherents to various major world religions over time for each nation. We also offer numerous socio-economic measures that provide a robust overview of each nation and compare it to the world at large, as well as its particular region of the world. Constitutional clauses, survey findings, and multiple social and political measures are also available for each nation.