IST 2006--Hybrid Version

Instructor: Antony Alumkal


Office Phone: 303-765-3131

(Hint: Contacting me by email will get a faster response than contacting me by Canvas message.)

Course Description

An introduction to the social scientific literature on congre­gations. Students will learn basic methodology for analyzing congregations and their surrounding communities. A review of the empirical literature on congregations will cover issue such as congregational cultures, leadership styles, adaptation to community change, racial/ethnic diversity, fund-raising, and membership growth and decline.

Click link below for syllabus as Word file:


The course aims to introduce students to the following:

  1. Variations in congregational cultures.
  2. Basic methodology for conducting an analysis of a congregation.
  3. How congregations are affected by denominational and other institutional contexts.
  4. How congregations reflect racial, ethnic, and theological traditions.
  5. The relationships between congregations and their communities.
  6. Being critical consumers of social scientific research on religion.


1. The following books are required texts for the course. Note that most of these are standard texts in congregations courses around the country, and used copies are plentiful.

Ammerman, Nancy. 1997. Congregation and Community. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Ammerman, Nancy, Jackson Carroll, Carl Dudley, and William McKinney. 1998. Studying Congregations: A New Handbook.  Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Becker, Penny Edgell. 1999. Congregations in Conflict: Cultural Models of Local Religious Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Christopher, J. Clif. 2015. Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship. Revised Edition. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Wellman, James K. 2008. Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 


2. The following readings are available as pdfs on the Canvas site:

Floyd-Thomas et al. 2007. Black Church Studies: An Introduction. Nashville: Abingdon Press. Chapter 7.

Kim, Sharon. 2010. “Shifting Boundaries within Second-Generation Korean American Churches.” Sociology of Religion 71:98-122.

Marti, Gerardo. 2012. “The Diversity-Affirming Latino: Ethnic Options and the Ethnic Transcendent Expression of American Latino Religious Identity.” Pp. 25-45 in Sustaining Faith Tradition: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion among the Latino and Asian American Second Generation. New York: New York University Press.

Marti, Gerardo and Gladys Ganiel. 2014. The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press. Introduction.

Pew Research Center. 2019. “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace.” Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.


3. The following readings are available for free download.

Lizardy-Hajbi, Kristina. 2015. Engaging Young Adults. Hartford: Hartford Institute for Religious Research.


Mamiya, Larry. 2006. River of Struggle, River of Freedom: Trends among Black Churches and Black Pastoral Leadership. Durham, NC: Duke Divinity School.


Roozen, David. 2015. 2015 American Congregations Report: Thriving and Surviving. Hartford: Hartford Institute for Religious Research.


Thumma, Scott and Warren Bird. 2015. 2015 Megachurch Study.





1. The first type of assignment in the course will be regular postings on Canvas. These will be about twice a week in the first half of the course, with a lighter schedule in the second half. Deadlines are on Mondays and Thursdays at midnight Denver time. The class is small this year, so there will be one discussion group.

Each posting assignment will require a minimum of two posts from you. The first post will involve answering the assignment question, which will be on Canvas. The second post will involve responding to another student’s answer. If the first post is due on a Monday, the response post will be due on Thursday of the same week. If the first post is due on a Thursday, the response post will be due on Monday of the next week. The responses should involve more than simply saying “I agree” or “I disagree” by adding more analysis (e.g. discussing why the statement may be true), nuance (e.g. saying that you believe the statement is true in some cases but not in others), or application (e.g. here are some implications for pastors of congregations). The point is to have a conversation. If you post at all required times and your posts are good quality, you can expect to get full credit (that mean an A).

I will list the respective due dates for the two posts for each assignment question. During the first half of the quarter, you will usually have a response post and an initial post for a new question due on the same day. So watch the Canvas timeline carefully to stay on track.


2. Students are required to attend the two Gathering Days sessions: February 4, 1-5 pm and February 5, 8 am-Noon.


3. Each student must choose a congregation to study and write up a pilot research report. If you are working at a congregation, you are free to study that one if you wish. The due date is midnight (Denver time) on March 12, submitted on Canvas. It should be 15-20 pages (double-spaced) and include the following:

a. Brief history of the congregation.

b. Demographics of the immediate location.

c. Profile of the leader(s) and an analysis of their style(s) of leadership.

d. Profile of the membership.

e. Denominational and other relevant networks.

f. Current goals and challenges for the leaders and for the congregation as a whole.

g. A list of 3-4 research questions that you would investigate if you had time and money for a lengthier study. Discuss why these questions are important and how they can be answered. If answering the research questions would involve interviews, describe whom you would interview and what kinds of questions you would ask.

Throughout the report, you should make references to the course readings. For example, you can argue, “this congregation looks like Becker’s family model” or “this congregation does not fit neatly into any of Becker’s congregational models.” Papers that do not reference the course readings will be marked down significantly.

The research for this report will likely involve some combination of observing services and other meetings and interviewing congregation members and clergy. Since this is a short-term project, it is okay for your findings to be tentative and for you to discuss what you suspect might be true in the congregation. Just be sure to discuss what observations lead you to your speculations. Students often draw from official church histories. It is best to paraphrase and use select quotation where helpful. In other words, do not cut and paste several pages of text!

As with all Iliff papers, be sure to use proper citation for sources and quotations. I do not specify which citation style you need to use, so use whichever one you prefer. (Hint: Go to to see the citation method commonly used by sociologists. This is one of the easiest methods.) Remember to cite any church documents you use.


Discussion Group Conduct

The course should involve a free exchange of ideas, which means you are welcome to express your viewpoints and to disagree with the viewpoints of the instructor or your fellow students. This should always be done in a way that shows respect for the other people involved in the course. If you are not sure how to disagree without coming across as disrespectful, try saying, “I would like to respectfully disagree with that.” Many students like saying, “Let me push back on that…” which also works.


Lectures: Each week there will be two written lectures (Word file) posted on Canvas along with a short video podcast providing additional information.


Discussion Group Posts: 30%

Gathering Days Participation: 20%

Final Paper: 50%


My assumption is that students in a masters program can be expected to produce above average academic work. Therefore, the modal grade I assign is B+. An assignment will earn a B+ if it 1) fulfills all of the requirements and 2) demonstrates that the student has a solid (though not necessarily flawless) understanding of the con­cepts in the course readings and lectures. An assignment will earn a grade higher than a B+ if it fulfills the assignment and demonstrates exceptional insight into the course concepts. An assignment will earn a grade of B or B- if there are minor to moderate shortcomings in either fulfilling the assignment or demonstrating understanding of course concepts. Grades below B- are reserved for assignments with major shortcomings in either area.

This course may be taken pass/fail, but you must request this (by email) during the first two weeks. You do not need to provide a reason for your request.

Degree Learning Goals: Please take some time to look over the Professional Degree Learning Goals (MDiv, MASC, MAPSC) and the Academic Degree Learning Goals (MTS, MA).

Incompletes:  If incompletes are allowed in this course, see the Master's Student Handbook for Policies and Procedures.

Pass/Fail:  Masters students wishing to take the class pass/fail should discuss this with the instructor by the second class session.

Academic Integrity and Community Covenant:  All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statement on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook, or the Joint PhD Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook, as appropriate.  All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Community Covenant.

Core ValuesAs a community, Iliff strives to live by this set of Core Values.

Accommodations:  Iliff engages in a collaborative effort with students with disabilities to reasonably accommodate student needs.   Students are encouraged to contact their assigned advisor to initiate the process of requesting accommodations.  The advising center can be contacted at or by phone at 303-765-1146. 

Writing Lab:  Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments.  Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab, which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft. 

Inclusive Language:  It is expected that all course participants will use inclusive language in speaking and writing, and will use terms that do not create barriers to classroom community. 

Jan 07, 2020TueIntroduction—Sociology of Religiondue by 06:58AM
Jan 07, 2020TueDiscussion 1due by 06:59AM
Jan 10, 2020FriCongregational Cultures due by 06:58AM
Jan 10, 2020FriDiscussion 2due by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2020TueCongregational Culturesdue by 06:58AM
Jan 14, 2020TueDiscussion 3due by 06:59AM
Jan 17, 2020FriCongregational Culturesdue by 06:58AM
Jan 17, 2020FriDiscussion 4due by 06:59AM
Jan 21, 2020TueMegachurches and the Emerging/Emergent Churchdue by 06:58AM
Jan 24, 2020FriMethodology for Congregational Analysisdue by 06:58AM
Jan 28, 2020TueMethodology for Congregation Analysisdue by 06:58AM
Jan 28, 2020TueDiscussion 5due by 06:59AM
Jan 31, 2020FriCongregational Case Studiesdue by 06:58AM
Feb 04, 2020TueCongregational Case Studiesdue by 06:58AM
Feb 05, 2020WedFebruary 4-5 (Gathering Days): Congregational Case Studiesdue by 06:58AM
Feb 06, 2020ThuGathering Days Participationdue by 06:59AM
Feb 11, 2020TueNo Assignment (Recovery from Gathering Days)due by 06:58AM
Feb 14, 2020FriNew Immigrant Congregationsdue by 06:58AM
Feb 18, 2020TueAfrican American Churchesdue by 06:58AM
Feb 18, 2020TueDiscussion 6due by 06:59AM
Feb 21, 2020FriEvangelical and Liberal Protestant Congregationsdue by 06:58AM
Feb 25, 2020TueEvangelical and Liberal Protestant Congregationsdue by 06:58AM
Feb 28, 2020FriEvangelical and Liberal Protestant Congregationsdue by 06:58AM
Feb 28, 2020FriDiscussion 7due by 06:59AM
Mar 03, 2020TueRecent Trendsdue by 06:58AM
Mar 06, 2020FriMoney and Religious Leadershipdue by 06:58AM
Mar 10, 2020TueNo Assignmentdue by 05:58AM
Mar 13, 2020FriFinal Paperdue by 05:59AM