Newcomers and collective confidence in Protestant churches: A longitudinal study from 2001 to 2011

Sam Sterland, Ruth Powell, Nicole Hancock, Miriam Pepper, Martin Dowson

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This large longitudinal study examines the predictive relationships between collective confidence in church groups, and attracting newcomers to church who do not have a church background. Collective confidence is defined as an underlying group construct which reflects growth in faith through church, leadership that inspires people to action, and worship services that are inspiring. The unit of analysis is Australian Protestant congregations (n = 1,059) at three points in time: 2001, 2006, and 2011. Structural Equation Modelling (SEM), which can infer directionality in ways cross-sectional studies cannot, was used to identify the model that best explains the link between the number of newcomers arriving over time and collective confidence. In particular the question of reciprocity is addressed, and the conclusion supports a model where Confidence and Newcomers reinforce each other: Confidence predicts higher Newcomers, and Newcomers also predict higher Confidence. The paper discusses possible reasons and perspectives for these results and suggests further work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch in the social scientific study of religion
EditorsAndrew Village, Ralph W. Hood
Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789004382640
ISBN (Print)9789004382633
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2018


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