Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2020 Volume 16 :: Article 4
2020 Volume 16, Article 4
Connected and Fragmented: Introducing a Social Network Study of Religious Congregations

Author: Jennifer M. McClure (Samford University)

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ABSTRACT

This article introduces a new data collection on the social networks between religious congregations in eight counties encompassing and surrounding a major metropolitan area in the southeastern United States. Participating congregations were asked to mention up to ten other congregations within the study area with whom they were connected. Of the congregations in the study area, 20% participated, and another 30% were mentioned by a participating congregation as a connection; the larger social network that can be created from this project includes 50% of the congregations in the study area. This article’s initial analyses describe and depict the overall structure of the network, focusing on patterns of cohesion, fragmentation, and centralization, which have implications for congregations’ ability to access friendship and support within the network. Future research from this project will use social network analytic techniques to examine diversity and homogeneity within relational patterns and to analyze the relationships between congregational connectedness, isolation, vitality, and sustainability. This collection addresses a need for network data within sociology of religion and congregational studies, whose scholars often ask questions related to relational dynamics in religious settings but lack the data needed to analyze them.

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