Journal Article

A Place to Belong: Small Group Involvement in Religious Congregations*

Kevin D. Dougherty and Andrew L. Whitehead

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 72, issue 1, pages 91-111
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
A Place to Belong: Small Group Involvement in Religious Congregations*

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Large congregations are commonly criticized as eliciting less involvement from adherents than smaller congregations. Small groups have been heralded as a remedy to drawbacks of increasing congregation size. This study tests the relevance of small groups to individuals’ commitment and participation, particularly in large congregations. Analysis features the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey and a survey of congregants at one Central Texas Megachurch. Persons involved in small groups devoted to prayer, discussion, or Bible study report a greater sense of belonging, more frequent attendance, and higher rates of giving. The effect of small group involvement does not differ by congregation size, however. From worshippers in one Texas megachurch, we find that the extent of small group involvement positively relates to commitment and participation. Small groups may not completely resolve problems associated with increasing size, but we believe they do represent a potent source of vitality in congregations big and small.

Keywords: congregations; commitment; organizations; megachurches; practice; religious involvement; small groups

Journal Article.  8664 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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