Research Projects

The CRA undertakes two types of projects:
(1) General projects for the benefit of all churches, as determined by the Board of the CRA.
(2) Specific projects, contracted by the CRA, to meet the needs of particular church denominations or agencies. The outline of some samples of projects are presented below.

Using Census Data Locally

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012
Census data can now be downloaded from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (www.abs.gov.au) for every local area in Australia. You can look for your local information under your suburb name, your postcode, your local government area, or the Census’ own ‘census district’. Excel or a similar spreadsheet program can be used to look at the data for your area. You will find several tables there on the website:
Basic Profile (Tables numbered B…)
Time Change Profile (Tables numbered T…)
Extended Profile (Tables numbered X…).
For most purposes the Basic profile is adequate, although the Time Change profile will give you some interesting changes between 2001, 2006 and 2011.

Census data can now be downloaded from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (www.abs.gov.au) for every local area in Australia. You can look for your local information under your suburb name, your postcode, your local government area, or the Census’ own ‘census district’. Excel or a similar spreadsheet program can be used to look at the data for your area. You will find several tables there on the website:

  • Basic Profile (Tables numbered B…)
  • Time Change Profile (Tables numbered T…)
  • Extended Profile (Tables numbered X…).

For most purposes the Basic profile is adequate, although the Time Change profile will give you some interesting changes between 2001, 2006 and 2011.

What to look for in the Census data

In thinking about the nature of ministry in a local church or the potential growth or decline of a school, some of the important factors you may want to consider are the following.

What is the age profile of your local area (Tables B04,  T03)? Are there lots of young people, young families, older people? While most local areas contain a wide age range, there are predominant groups in most areas, relating to when homes were built, the occupational facilities in the area, and other factors. Are you catering for the different age groups which are well represented in your area? It is common for churches to grow among a particular group of people of similar age and some churches simply keep the people of that age group. In order to extend its ministry to other age groups, it is often necessary to begin new activities designed specifically for these other groups, such as different worship services, different social groups, and different types of educational activities.

What is the ethnic profile of your local area? Language (B13, T10) is often a better key to the ethnic heritage and culture than birthplace (B09, T08). The numbers speaking a specific language include children born in Australia who share their parents’ culture. If there are significant numbers of people who speak a specific language at home, should the local church be providing some facilities in that language? Can the church serve local people by offering them English classes?

What is the religious profile of people in your local area (B14, T12)? You will want to look at the numbers of people who identify with your own denomination, for these are the people who are identifying with your group, whether they ever come to your activities or whether they do not. The numbers you find in the Census will, in almost every case, far exceed those who attend the local church. Surveys show that, across Australia, depending on the age profile, approximately one person in 10 of those identify as Anglicans or Eastern Orthodox on the Census attend a church monthly or more. Among Catholics, it is one in three, and among Uniting one in five. For Baptists and some other Evangelical groups, it is one in two. If the proportion of people identifying in a local area is much greater than those attending, one might ask why. Is it because the local church is failing to provide what is appropriate for these people? Is the local church in some way, directly or indirectly, excluding these people? In every group of people, there are some who take faith seriously and others for whom it is not really on the agenda. Some of those for whom it is not on the agenda describe themselves as ‘no religion’, however, this group is not necessarily antagonistic to religious faith. About one-third of these people consider themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’. Are there ways your local church can engage these people?

Change and mobility in the population. Has the number of people in your local area changed (T01)? How many people now living in your area arrived from overseas in the last 5 years (B10)? Is an increase in the local population being matched by an increase in the local church, or does the decline in the numbers of the local population explain a decline in the church? Are there increasing numbers of people renting in the area, suggesting that the area has become more mobile (T18)? Engaging mobile people is more challenging than engaging people who have settled in the area and are expecting to raise their family in the area, but it may mean different forms of ministry and different forms of advertising the church.

People with special needs. Are there people with particular needs living in your area? Some of the categories to look for in the Census are elderly people living alone (B23), one parent families (B26, T23), and immigrants with little English (B11, T11). Also look at the numbers of people in your local area who need assistance with core living activities (B18).

Schools need to look at details of age, school attendance, ethnicity, religion, educational levels and income levels as they consider how they relate to the young people in the local area.

To make sense of the numbers, turn them into percentages, and then compare them with the percentages for the people in your capital city, State, or Australia as a whole. Or you can see changes by examining the ‘Time Change’ data tables.

CRA Census Reports

Let us do the work for you: explaining the meaning of the Census numbers in plain English and providing you with relevant comparisons. We can provide local churches with a Census report on your area for $95 inc. GST. School reports are available for  $195.

Email p.hughes@cra.org.au  with the local area for which you want a report and your denomination, and we will send you the report with an invoice.

Cra Presentations

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Through 2011, CRA staff made a number of presentations. Some were at national and international conferences. Others were at staff professional development days. Some were to small groups of leaders or students. The presentations in 2011 included the following:

The Effectiveness of Chaplaincy. This presentation drew on the national study of chaplaincy in government schools was given to students preparing themselves to be chaplains at Whitley College, Melbourne.

Understanding Youth Spirituality – presentation to staff at Catholic Regional College, Melton.

Pastoral Planning in Rural Settings – presentation to a Conference on Pastoral Planning regarding possibilities of leadership in rural churches.

Spirituality and Work – a workshop held at Glen Waverley Uniting Church exploring work as a calling and as a source of meaning.

Young People’s Worlds of Meaning and Implications for Catholic Educators – a presentation at the National Catholic Education Convention in Adelaide, September 2011.

The National Spirit – presentation to directors of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on general religious and spiritual trends in Australia.

Commodification of Religion: World Trends – presentation at the 6th Lausanne Researchers’ International Conference in Brazil, April 2011. A study of how religion is increasingly viewed around the world from the perspective of a consumer.

Trends in Family Life – presentation at the 6th Lausanne Researchers’ International Conference in Brazil, April 2011. The presentation explored the changes occurring in the composition of family households, and the contributions that churches make in influencing the shape of family life.

Commodification of Religion and Religious Tolerance – presentation at the conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion, Aix-en-Provence, France, June 2011. The paper argued that the commodification of religion, in some circumstances, is leading to more tolerant views of religion.

The staff of the Christian Research Association are available to speak at conferences, staff development days, and for other other occasions.  Topics in which they bring specialised knowledge include:

  • World Trends in Spirituality and Religion
  • Australian Religion and Spirituality
  • Australian Cultural Trends
  • Youth Spirituality and Religious Faith
  • Rural Church Life – Forms of Organisation and Leadership
  • Church Vitality and Mission
  • Religious Education in Schools
  • Chaplaincy
  • Changing Patterns of Family Life
  • Values and Religion
  • Welfare and Religious Faith
  • Wellbeing, Religion and Spirituality
  • Educating for Wellbeing
  • Holistic Education

If you are interested in a presentation from a staff member of the Christian Research Association, contact Dr Philip Hughes (p.hughes@cra.org.au) or phone (03) 8819 0123.

2011 Cra Projects

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

The Christian Research Association undertakes a great variety of projects for Christian churches and other organisations. Amongst its projects in 2011 were:

Bible Engagement among Young People – based on interviews with young people and youth leaders in more than 60 youth groups around Australia. This was commissioned by the Bible Society of Australia, Scripture Union, the Lutheran Church, the Salvation Army and Youthworks.

Spirituality of Teachers. The spirituality of teachers in Catholic Schools in South Australia was surveyed in conjunction with the Catholic Education Office of South Australia.

Putting Life Together 2011. Surveys of the spirituality of students in Catholic schools were conducted of 4000 students in 29 schools in three dioceses in Australia. Reports were provided both to the dioceses and the schools.

Engaging Theology – a study of how students are processing lectures in theology at the Australian Catholic University. This study was commissioned by the Department of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University.

Mission Audit – a audit of how Uniting Churches in Victoria and Tasmania are engaging in mission has been designed. This audit will conducted in 2012 and 2013.

Experiences in Rome.  Interviews were conducted among 28 senior students, half of whom travelled to Rome for the canonisation of Mary McKillop. The exploration of the implications of this experience for the faith of these students was analysed, and compared with development of faith among students who did not have the experience. This study was commissioned by the Catholic Schools Office of the Broken Bay Diocese.

Customer Satisfaction Survey for Catholic Church Insurances was conducted in 2011. A particular focus of the study was the general evaluation of the levels of satisfaction among clients and the factors which made a difference to levels of satisfaction.

The Christian Research Association does a wide range of research projects. It brings to these projects a broad understanding of the nature of church life and the Christian faith, as well as extensive experience in conducting surveys and interviews.

For further information about research projects, contact Philip Hughes – p.hughes@cra.org.au or (03) 8819 0123.

Christian Education In The Uniting Church

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The CRA undertook a major study of Christian Education in the Uniting Church. The first part of this study involved focus groups at around 30 churches in most states of Australia. It was followed by a survey of more than 4800 Uniting Church attenders in approximately 240 congregations.