Assessing key informant methodology in congregational research

Philip Schwadel, Kevin D. Dougherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Surveying key informants is a common methodology in congregational research. While practical and cost-effective, there are limitations in the ability of a single informant to speak for an entire organization. This paper explores potential limitations empirically. Using the 1993 American Congregational Giving Study, we compare demographic descriptions provided by pastors to demographic information taken from random samples of members in the same congregations. Significant differences in congregational profiles appear along dimensions of gender, age, race/ethnicity and, most notably, education and income. The amount of discrepancy between pastor and member profiles varies by congregational factors such as denominational affiliation and employment status of pastor. We construct diversity measures using both pastor descriptions and surveys from samples of congregation members to demonstrate the impact of data type on conclusions drawn from empirical research. Difficulties notwithstanding, key informant methodology has a place in congregational research with appropriate precautions. Of course, the most complete view of congregations is one that combines perceptions from the pulpit with information directly from the pews.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-379
Number of pages14
JournalReview of Religious Research
Volume51
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

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Pastors
Informants
Methodology
Congregations
Demographics
Income
Ethnic Groups
Costs
Empirical Research
Precaution
Pulpit
Surveying
Education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy

Cite this

Assessing key informant methodology in congregational research. / Schwadel, Philip; Dougherty, Kevin D.

In: Review of Religious Research, Vol. 51, No. 4, 01.06.2010, p. 366-379.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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