Models of church vitality: A literature review

Ruth Powell, Miriam Pepper, Nicole Ward, Sam Sterland, Kathy Jacka

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)


Church health and vitality and what drives it has attracted attention from church leaders, consultants and congregational studies scholars alike. With a primary focus on empirical social scientific research, and particular attention to the work of NCLS Research, this literature review outlines and synthesises different approaches to conceptualise and measure church vitality. The shift from a singular focus on growth in church attendance to more complex, multifaceted presentations of vitality is charted. Some 15 features of church vitality are identified across the literature: “community”, “outward focus”, “leadership”, “spirituality”, “worship”, “discipleship”, “prayer”, “vision”, “caring for the young”, “giving”, “open and flexible innovation”, “healing”, “diversity”, “beauty” and attendance (“numerical growth”, “young adult retention” and “newcomers”). Analysis of data from the four countries (Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA) that participated in the 2001 International Church Life Survey and utilised the NCLS Research framework for church vitality suggests two underlying vitality constructs, “Collective Confidence” and “Individual Commitment”, that are expressed in more specific aspects of vitality. Parallels with the broader organisational studies literature are given, yielding insights that may be useful in the quest for vital churches.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherNCLS Research
Commissioning bodyNational Church Life Survey
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


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