The Research Shows...Learn through the experiences of others
Learn what is working for churches, leaders, and congregations
Research, connections and best practices.
Our mission at Vibrant Faith is to re-create transformative Christian formation. We have spent decades gathering data and information about what makes faith formation lifelong, effective, and meaningful in the lives of people at all ages and stages of their lives. We provide you with access to the wisdom, insight, and experiences we have collected by sharing our research, helping disciples connect, and teaching best practices.
Read our Research
Learning is essential in continuing to grow and meet changing needs and shifting culture. Our team continuously works to grow our own knowledge in the fields of ministry and faith formation, and we are eager to share that with you.
Our latest RESEARCH
Vibrant Faith Research
Congregations and Faith Formation
In the Summer and Fall of 2019 Vibrant Faith invited congregations to complete a survey on the relationship between vital church life and faith formation. Our study is guided by the belief that lifelong faith formation can renew and revitalize the faith life of all ages and contribute towards building a thriving congregation that lives its mission—that how and what a congregation is learning is critical to building a vital congregation.
A total of 242 churches completed the survey with 177 churches categorized as high vitality churches. These churches 1) possesses a sense of God’s living presence in
everything they do, 2) are willing to try something new to live their mission, 3) have a clear sense of their mission; 4) are focused on living their mission; 5) are excited about
their church’s future; 6) have people who are growing in their faith and feel their church meets their spiritual needs; and 7) are willing to change or adapt to meet new challenges. We asked the high vitality churches to rate the importance of ten priorities from faith formation. Their priorities (from a high score of 4.24 to the lowest score of 3.61) are: 1) equipping people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ and make the Christian faith a way of life; 2) equipping people to live the Christian mission in the world (serving, caring creation, and acting for justice and peace); 3) engaging people in the life, ministries, and activities of the faith community; 4) equipping people to use their gifts and talents in the Christian community and in the world; 5) preparing people for worshipping God with the community at Sunday worship; 6) guiding people in developing and sustaining a personal relationship and commitment to Jesus Christ; 7) teaching the Christian story and the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith tradition; 8) teaching people how to pray and to nurture their spiritual growth; 9) guiding people in living with moral integrity guided by Christian ethics and values; and 10) teaching people to read and study the Bible, and its message, meaning, and application to life today.
Churches were then asked to rate the effectiveness of children, adolescent, and adult faith formation using the ten priorities. The order remained essentially the same, but the
highest effectiveness score in each of the three age groups started around 3.70 (out of 5), significantly lower that the priority each item was given. So, while these ten faith
formation priorities are important, churches are only moderately effective in putting them into practice. We also discovered a significant difference (a full point) in these
effectiveness ratings between high vitality and low vitality churches. A majority of all 242 churches were engaged in family and/or intergenerational programming. These churches provide experiences for the whole family that promote growth in faith and discipleship; help parents (or caregivers) grow in faith and discipleship; provide families with resources to nurture growth in Christian faith and practice at home; and teach parents the practices for forming faith at home (celebrating rituals and milestones, praying, serving, learning the Christian faith, reading the Bible).
The churches engaged in intergenerational faith formation bring all generations together in Sunday/weekend worship, including children and youth; build caring relationships
among the generations through existing church ministries and events (e.g., worship, learning, service, and community events and activities); create intentional opportunities
for bringing the generations together to build relationships and engage in shared activities; and regularly bring all generations together in actions that serve the poor and
vulnerable, locally and globally.
In the coming year Vibrant Faith will expand its research efforts to include more congregations and continue to explore the relationship between vital congregations and
lifelong faith formation.
Our Research Projects
The mission of Vibrant Faith is to transform the way we envision and design faith formation for all ages and generations in the 21st century. Thus, we want to partner with churches to gather and implement research to help cultivate transformative and vibrant faith.
Check out our RESEARCH Projects
We have 3 ongoing research programs to keep up-to-date with the most effective practices in faith formation:
The C3 Initiative – Started in 2018, this four-year grant-funded program is exploring the idea of Calling with 24 churches from eight different denominations. Teams from our C3 churches work with Vibrant Faith Coaches to “Create a Culture of Calling” within their communities. Many of our recent blogs are stories of these churches exploring Calling (see below). Because this work is fully funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Called to Lives of Purpose Initiative, we are able to provide free services for these congregations as they grow and as their learnings reveal new insight we can share with others.
The 2019 Symposiums – In 2019, we hosted 3 Symposium events where participants gathered to share and explore research about maintaining lifelong faith formation. Throughout 2019 Vibrant Faith conducted research in congregations to identify the most effective practices in promoting Christian discipleship and faith growth, including a new survey of Christian congregations to uncover the most effective practices in faith formation. The research culminated in a report of the findings at the 2019 Symposia.
A new five-year project on Thriving Congregations is beginning in 2020. Stay tuned as this project, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., gets underway.
Research cannot just be studied. It must also be applied. We offer classes and training to help people discover ways they can apply research and implement best practices. Insights and skills acquired by individuals can transform communities.
How you can APPLY our research
We invite those who wish to apply the research we have gathered to check out the following:
– Register for a Leading Well Event
If you are a church or ministry leader, resources are available to help you expand your knowledge, self-care, and support system through participation in one of our four-day learning retreats, held annually in Florida (January) and Arizona (November). These retreats offer resources and training, and many participants have shared that some of their greatest learning and growth comes from connections and conversations with others in this community.
– Register for MasterClass on Catalyst
Full of wisdom pulled from our research, each MasterClass shares specific information to help you in a particular ministry area. Learn from experts in the field by joining online classes on a wide variety of topics about faith formation and ministry.
– Sign up for a free 30 min Coaching Consultation
We will connect with you online or by phone to explore your leadership needs to see if our Coaching (for individuals, leaders, congregations, or cohorts) would be helpful for you. Through coaching, we utilize our research to guide you toward healthier outcomes and better ministry.