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Can Empirical Research Predict the Future of the Church?

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Theoretical Clarifications and Results from a Longitudinal Study

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This article first discusses the question of how empirical research can contribute to the ongoing discussions concerning the future of the church. Among others, German research on church membership is used as a case study for gaining insights into the interplay between theoretical assumptions, empirical research and designing strategies for church development. The need for comparisons over time, for longitudinal studies and the identification of long-term predictors is discussed. Against this background, recent research on confirmation work in Germany and Europe is taken up as an example. The article draws on data from a European study on confirmation work with a longitudinal research approach. The results show that confirmation work, as one of the major educational programs of the Protestant Church, can influence adolescents’ views of Christian faith and the church. Predictors for future commitment to the church in terms of believing, belonging and volunteerism are not only dependent on religious socialization in childhood but also on experiences and activities during confirmation time in adolescence.

Affiliations: 1: University of Tuebingen friedrich.schweitzer@uni-tuebingen.de ; 2: University of Tuebingen wolfgang.ilg@gmx.net

10.1163/15709256-12341360
/content/journals/10.1163/15709256-12341360
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/content/journals/10.1163/15709256-12341360
2017-12-11
2018-09-19

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