Twenty-five years of data on Australian churches: Strengths and limitations

Miriam Pepper, Ruth Powell, Sam Sterland, Nicole Hancock

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


The National Church Life Survey (NCLS) is a growing database of information about Australian churches, church attenders and local church leaders from more than 20 denominations. The datasets cover a diversity of research areas, afford a breadth of analytical possibilities and are available to researchers in Australia and internationally. This paper presents a methodological overview of the NCLS, and discusses the strengths and limitations of the datasets. A particular strength is that all attenders in a participating local church are surveyed, enabling detailed work on congregational cultures and person-environment multi-level modelling approaches. The datasets have good national coverage and denominational diversity, and datasets of different types can be linked. Longitudinal studies on local churches are possible, with up to six data points. Catholic data are derived from random samples of parishes, however there are self-selection biases related to church size, locality and theological tradition in other denominations. Concerns about representativeness can be partially addressed through weighting procedures and the use of controls. Overall, the NCLS datasets are a high-quality resource for research in many areas of the social scientific study of religion, particularly in organisational studies, church health, and psychology and sociology of religion.
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 pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9789004382640
ISBN (Print)9789004382633
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2018

Publication series

NameResearch in the social scientific study of religion
ISSN (Print)1046-8064


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