Pointers 28-2 For Downloading

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Providers of Religious Services in Australia in 2016
The profile of Australian clergy provides some insights into the vitality and health of the church as a whole. However, getting a reliable picture of Australian clergy across the denominations is almost impossible. There are many hundreds of denominations, some of which keep better records than others. In some places, clergy are appointed by local churches and have no wider recognition. In many places, the leaders of congregations are lay people who may or may not have had any training. Some denominations count retired people, while others count only those in active service. Some count those in administration and teaching who could be leading a congregation, while others do not.

Personal Income in the 2016 Census
In the 1933 Australian Census, in an attempt to assess the effects of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, a question about income was asked for the very first time. It has since been included in every Census since 1976.

Catholic Religious Orders and Recruitment, 2000-2015
In February 2018, a report on a large-scale study of recent recruitment to Catholic religious orders in Australia was released. The report uncovered some common characteristics of religious orders that are attracting new members. It also corrected two common misconceptions: first, that only conservative or traditional religious orders attract new members; and second, that only people who were born overseas are entering religious life in Australia.

Pointers December 2016

Monday, December 5th, 2016


Social Connectedness: The role of the local church in building community
In the digitised, commercialised western world, a great deal has been written about the loss of community and the impact that lack of connectedness has on mental health and well-being (Emery, 2012; Hughes et al., 2007; Pretty et al., 2006; Putnam, 2000; Mackay, 2014). Loneliness is seen as an increasing social problem affecting many people in modern society. Older people, people who are unemployed, young mums and people with limited financial means are all vulnerable and may experience social isolation and loneliness as a consequence of their individual circumstances.

Retreats and Camps for Young People
Graham Rossiter, professor in the Cardinal Clancy Centre for Research in the Spiritual, Moral, Religious and Pastoral Dimensions of Education at Australian Catholic University, has just published a book about retreats in Catholic schools: Research on Retreats: The views of teachers and senior students about retreats in Australian Catholic secondary schools. It claims to be the largest study of retreats ever conducted in the English speaking world, based on surveys of 150 students and 500 teachers from 40 Catholic schools. The results are significant, not only for Catholic schools, but for education in general.

Disability in the Church
US Catholic parishes and People with a Disability
At the recent meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and Religious Research Association, held in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the papers reported on a recently conducted study of American Catholic parishes and people with disabilities. The paper was delivered by Jonathon Holland, a researcher from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the US Catholic research office located at Georgetown University in  Washington DC. The results of the study warrant reflection about the importance of the inclusiveness of churches toward people with a disability.


Book review:
Trudy Dantis (2016).
ACBC Pastoral Research Office A Handbook for Building Stronger Parishes is an excellent resource for church leaders and local churches in developing parish ministries. Compiled by Dr. Trudy Dantis and based on her important research on parish vitality, this publication details several inspirational case studies from across Australia, focusing on the achievements of these parishes in various areas that are critical to the overall ministry of the parish.

The “return of theology” to the social and political sciences:
A very brief introduction

There has been a long tradition in Australia, going back to the sectarian conflict in the colonial era, of excluding theology as a legitimate subject of study, let alone as relevant to serious research in Universities. There has also been an implicit acceptance by researchers in the late twentieth century of a strong version of the secularisation thesis. With the anticipated departure of churches and Christianity from public life, researchers concluded that they could develop careers with apparently more promising and viable research agendas, making theology irrelevant. Operating outside this academic environment indifferent to theological issues, the Christian Research Association (CRA) has explored with academic rigor both religious practice and its institutional manifestations, while paying attention to broader societal implications. CRA has also from time to time surveyed the social science literature that underpins its research. Such literature surveys are important in offering the opportunity to reframe and refocus the research.

Charting the Faith of Australians: Thirty Years in the Christian Research Association

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Charting the Faith of Australians: Thirty Years in the Christian Research Association

Philip Hughes,
contributing editor.

The last 50 years have seen more rapid change than at any time in human history. Changes in technology have changed every aspect of life: from contraception to computation, from communication to community formation. These changes have affected the ways in which Australians have sought meaning in their lives, from the fulfilment of duty to the maximisation of subjective wellbeing. They have affected deeply the role that religion has played in life with the focus moving from the preservation of tradition to personal spirituality.

Over the past 30 years, the Christian Research Association has charted these changes. It has done so through the examination of census and survey data and through interviews with thousands of individuals. It has examined these changes in youth culture and rural culture and has explored the impact of migration and the rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. It has suggested ways in which churches and schools might respond to these changes.

Part 1 of this book tells the story of these changes and how the Christian Research Association has charted them. Part 2 contains contributions from various researchers discussing how the Christian Research Association has served the churches. Part 3 explores some extensions of and parallels to the work of the Christian Research Association in relation to religious institutions, migration and other research.

The story told in this book is a personal story for Dr Philip Hughes, the senior research officer of the Christian Research Association from 1985 to 2016. But it is also a story of global significance as Christian and other religious institutions grapple with changes to their place in society and their roles in changing perceptions of life.

Children’s Prayer – A Multi-faith Perspective

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Children’s Prayer – A Multi-faith Perspective

This book provides strong arguments for giving prayer a central place in the education and nurture of children. It is based on research in Australian Catholic, parent-controlled Christian, Independent, Jewish, Muslim and government schools. The author demonstrates focused attention and care in the data collection from the words of children and their drawings of people praying. She takes us through her thorough processes of analysis and synthesis.

The research shows that prayer is valued by all children, whether they come from a religious background or not. For some children it is a way of associating with their communities and traditions of faith. For others, prayer is practised in an individualistic manner.

Prayer is a way to perceive and respond to the experiences of life. It can help in dealing with the challenging emotional states of anxiety, loneliness, fear, anger and guilt. It can give hope for the future. It provides a way of seeking help for others, as well as expressing praise and thanksgiving.

Vivienne Mountain has a background in teaching and in clinical counselling. She lectures in Spirituality and Ministry with Children at Stirling Theological College, University of Divinity, Australia. She has published three books as well as contributing chapters to a number of others and articles for national and international journals.

Vivienne Mountain PhD, MA (Theology), MA (Creative arts therapy), MA ( Philosophy and religion), B Ed, B Th.


Pointers 26-1 For Downloading

Monday, March 7th, 2016


CRA Announces a New Director
The Board of the Christian Research is delighted to announce the appointment of Wilma Gallet as the director of the Christian Research Association from 1st July 2016. Wilma Gallet worked in the public service for many years before  being asked by The Salvation Army to establish E-Plus, the Army’s employment services. Since that time, she has  worked extensively with other welfare agencies in the various churches. She has just completed a doctorate at  Melbourne University on church-administered welfare and government. Her management and research skills,  knowledge of the churches, ability to make the findings of research available through written materials and oral presentations, and experience in commissioned research in church-related organisations make her eminently suitable for the position. We look forward to the development and growth of the CRA’s service to the churches under her guidance.Where’s the difference:Christian or secular welfare services?
Church groups in Australia have a long involvement in providing welfare services. Indeed they are among the largest providers of various services including aged care, homelessness services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, family services, poverty relief and health services. In an increasingly competitive and secular environment, churches are faced with a range of challenges, not the least of which is how to remain faithful to their mission and calling and demonstrate distinctively Christian characteristics in delivering these services. This article raises some of these issues and points the way toward further research in this important area of ministry.

Intergenerational Churches?

To what extent should churches be developing intergenerational activities and programs, and to what extent should they develop activities to cater for the different generations? The importance of having services of worship and educational activities which cater for the different generations is being challenged by recent research in the United States. But how valid is that research for Australia? This article looks at the research and the Australian situation.


Is Sport an Australian Religion?

There has been a connection between sport and religion since ancient times. Games played by Greeks around 900 BC were based upon religious beliefs and mythology. The early Greek Olympics were religious ceremonies. What has been handed down in the form of the modern day Olympic Games is much like a great liturgical event, particularly the opening and closing ceremonies in which “masters of ceremonies, celebrants, acolytes, and ecstatic public” honour the ‘god’ of sport (Cipriani, 2012, p. 147).

Youth and Church in the Age of Experience

There is a strong focus on experience in many Australian churches. Much of the emphasis in youth worship is on the provision of environments which will generate positive experiences for young people. In educational contexts, youth ministry seeks to help young people to interpret the experiences of daily life in terms of the activity of God in their lives. This article explores these experiences and how young people have explained them to us.

Mental Health and Coexisting Physical Health Conditions in Australia

In December 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the findings of a survey of the mental and co-existing physical health conditions of Australians.

Youth Ministry Roundtables
The Christian Research Association is conducting a series of Roundtables on youth ministry. In January 2016, a Roundtable was held with 26 leaders in youth ministry in Melbourne. In February 2016, we were in Sydney, and in April 2016 we plan to go to Adelaide. These Roundtables have discussed the  results of the CRA’s research into youth ministry in local churches. Some of the issues are discussed in this issue of Pointers.

A Vision for effective Youth Ministry

Monday, January 25th, 2016

A Vision for effective Youth Ministry – Insights from Australian Research

Many young Australians are struggling with issues of mental health, anxiety about the future, and addictions to drugs. Behind these struggles are often questions of what life is all about. Youth ministry is more important today than at any time in recent history. Yet, many churches are finding it difficult to connect with youth beyond those whose families are involved in the church.

This book has arisen out of Australian research into youth ministry, from visiting youth groups and talking with youth leaders and the youth themselves. It offers a vision for the development of youth ministry, recognising the diversity of youth and the backgrounds from which they come.

It explores how to build a youth ministry team and the qualities needed in the team. It discusses issues of training, payment, and support for youth leaders and building bridges with parents, church and school.

What are the factors which will really make a difference in developing youth ministry? Based on research, our conclusions are:

  • The vision for developing the spirit of young people

  • The commitment of the whole church to youth ministry

  • The youth ministry team with strong relationships with God, each other, the youth, parents, the church and the wider society;

  • A diversity of activities: both age-specific and intergenerational for fun, friends, inquiry and developing the spirit.

The Authors:

Rev Dr Philip Hughes has had pastoral experience in inner city, suburban and rural churches, and has been the senior research officer of the Christian Research Association since 1985. He has two adult children and one grandchild.

Stephen Reid has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2007 and has one teenage child and two younger children.

Margaret Fraser has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2011. She has two children who are completing university and two who are teenagers.

All three authors were involved in interviews with youth, youth leaders, clergy and parents for this study.

Pointers 25-4 For Downloading

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015


Youth Leadership

In most organisations, leadership is one of the keys to the successful achievement of the organisation’s goals. This is true in relation to church leadership in general and leadership of youth ministry in particular. In our studies of youth ministry across 21 churches in Anglican, Catholic and Salvation Army denominations conducted in 2014 and 2015, we have observed youth leadership, interviewed youth leaders and discussed leadership with young people. This article discusses some of the findings. For the sake of clarity, we will use the term ‘youth minister’ to refer to the senior or leading youth leader, and the term ‘youth leader’ to refer to other people who assist the youth minister in the role. It should be noted this was not the way these terms were used in many of the churches we visited.

Lay Pastoral Ministry
In many denominations, non-ordained people are involved in ministry alongside those who are ordained. Research undertaken by the Christian Research Association between 2006 and 2008 for Uniting and Anglican churches explored the patterns of lay ministry in rural areas. With declining numbers of clergy available for ministry, and declining capacity to support ordained clergy, many denominations have engaged local lay people to take responsibility in leadership (Hughes & Kunciunas, 2008, 2009). Urban churches also often use non-ordained people as part of a team or to take the responsibility of leadership in small churches. Earlier this year the CRA was commissioned by the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry, of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, to carry out research examining lay pastoral ministry in the Catholic Church in Australia. The project involved an exploration of current theological and sociological literature on the topic, and a series of case studies of Catholic parishes in different contexts where lay pastoral ministry is occurring.This article summarises some of the findings.


Leadership into the Unknown
We all make decisions that have an impact on our future. Yet, we can never be sure what the future will be, and whether our decisions will be right or not. The dilemma is heightened for those in leadership. People expect leaders to know what will be the consequences of their decisions. Leaders often pretend that they do. But leadership, in fact, often means making decisions which have unknown consequences. This is an issue for leaders in church and mission as well as in every other field of endeavour. It was the subject of one of the plenary sessions at the Lausanne International  Researchers’ conference in Kuala Lumpur in May 2015.

The Search for a Public Christianity?
In recent decades, a number of organisations have been established to explore the intersection of faith and Christianity. An early example, the Zadok Centre, was founded in Canberra in 1976 by its inaugural director Dr David Millikan.The article describes a number of such organisations which now exist around the world.

This article is based on two papers that were presented at the International Society for the Sociology of Religion held in Belgium. It looks at the different forms pilgrimage takes today, including The Hajj and pilgrimages to Neolithic sites.



Pointers 25-3 For Downloading

Friday, September 18th, 2015


Migrant Families and Churches
The flood of refugees from Syria is pulling at the heart-strings of the world. Many hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing war and the death, destruction and poverty that goes with it. For many of these refugees, the physical journey out of Syria is just one stage in what will be a social journey of generations, as they assimilate into their new places of residence. The churches and other religious organisations play a significant role in that journey. Past articles in Pointers have explored the demographic dimensions of immigration to Australia (Hughes 2012). Recent research has involved conversations with members of immigrant families to understand better the roles of the church and how they can both help and hinder migrant and refugee families as they settle into Australian society.

Growth in London Churches
Report of a presentation given by Dr Peter Brierley at the Lausanne Researchers Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In her 2002 book about religion in Europe, renowned British sociologist Grace Davie noted that, in general, world Christianity was growing everywhere towards the end of the 20th century, except in Europe. In seeking to understand why, she found little evidence for secularisation across the rest of the world outside Europe despite increasing modernisation (Davie, 2002). Focusing on Britain in her most recent book (Davie, 2015), Davie emphasises the notion of “vicarious religion” rather than “believing without belonging”, and that there has been a shift from obligation to consumption. However, Davie is conscious that London is different.

The Church in Malaysia
The Anglican bishop of West Malaysia, Bishop Ng Moon Hing, was one of the keynote speakers at the Lausanne International Researchers conference. He took us briefly through the history of missions in Malaysia. The English took control of Malaysia from the Dutch in 1786. In 1805 the first Anglican church was established in Malaysia. However, the churches were seen as primarily for traders, the army, and British workers, not for local people. Just a few local people who worked with British people became Christians and joined the churches.
CRA Chairman’s Report 2015
Annual Staff Report 2014-2015
Financial Report 2014/2015

7th Lausanne International Researchers Conference
The 7th Lausanne International Researchers conference was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in May 2015.

Seeking a New Director for the Christian Research Association

Pointers Vol.25-2 For Downloading

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015
The Economic Impact of Religion in Australian Society: Possibilities and Challenges in Its Measurement
While most religions provide ways in which people can access God, the divine or the sacred, they also encourage the adoption of particular views of the world, beliefs about the nature of life, values, and patterns of behaviour. Indeed, it has been argued that the great transformation of religion which took place in human society between 700 BC and 400 BC, the period known as the Axial Age, developed that dimension of religion associated with human values. It was a period in which Confucius, Buddha, Jeremiah and Socrates and many other religious leaders and prophets proclaimed that the fulfilment of life or the appropriate response to the divine would be found in compassion and a concern for social order and justice and not just in paying respect to the gods or God (Armstrong 2006). Through the centuries, all the major world religions have encouraged a range of pro-social values and behaviours.
The Impact of Faith on Society:
Some Global Perspectives
The critique of the Christian faith has become much louder and more persistent in recent years, particularly in northern European societies. The debate has been getting more intense and the voices more shrill. The criticism of religion is present not only in northern Europe and Australia but in many other countries, as shown by responses to questions in the International Society Survey Program which was conducted in 44 countries. On the other hand, a recent World Values Survey (2012) provides some valuable data for looking at the other side of the ledger and evaluating what contribution religion is making in societies around the world.
The Global Growth of Christianity
According to Gordon-Conwell University which puts together the World Christian Database, the number of Christians around the world is continuing to grow.  This year (2015), it has been calculated that 2,419 million people identify themselves as Christian, constituting 33.4 per cent of the world’s population (7,325 million people).
The Future(s) of Religion
On 13th April 2015, Prof Grace Davie, a world-renowned sociologist, delivered a lecture at Tabor College addressing the future of religion. The lecture was sponsored by Tabor College Victoria, Harvest Bible College and the Christian Research Association. Prof Grace Davie’s lecture drew substantially on her latest book, Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox.
Edward Bailey and Implicit Religion
Edward Bailey was a maverick in the study of religion. He was an Anglican priest who was Rector of Winterbourne, Diocese of Bristol, UK,from 1970 to 2006. In the 1960s, he studied for his doctoral thesis by becoming a waiter at a pub and listening to the conversations of the customers. He argued that, underlying those conversations, were forms of ‘implicit religion’. He spent the rest of his life pursuing the study of this ‘implicit religion’. While remaining rector in Winterbourne, he taught at universities and spoke at many conferences on religion. He developed his own annual conference on implicit religion, which became known as the Denton Conferences. He founded a scholarly Journal of Implicit Religion which is now published by Equinox. He started a Centre for the Study of Implicit Religion at Middlesex University. He wrote several books and published many articles around the term.

Pointers Vol.25-1 For Downloading

Friday, March 6th, 2015
Why Young People are Leaving the Church

A large proportion of children who grow up attending a church in Australia, United Kingdom or the USA drop out of church attendance.
According to the 2009 International Social Survey Program, the drop-out rate in Australia was 72 per cent. In the United Kingdom, it was 57 per cent, and in the USA it was 47 per cent. Over the past four decades, the drop-out rate in the United Kingdom and Australia has not changed a great deal. Indeed, in Australia, there is some evidence of it decreasing. In the United States, it has been gradually climbing. A recent book has been prepared by the head of the Barna Group, David Kinnaman, exploring why young people are dropping out. The book is entitled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church … and Rethinking Faith.

Is there an Optimum Length of Ministry?

I was once talking with a colleague who mentioned that very often churches experience decline in attendance at worship services during the first few years of a new leader’s tenure, before recovering to experience growth, or declining even more. Our conversation moved on to cover possible solutions, or whether attendance fluctuation in congregational life was just an inevitable part of ministry. One wonders whether there is an optimum length of time Christian clergy should serve, and how the length of tenure affects growth or decline in church life. Does the newness and enthusiasm of a newly-appointed pastor assist in attracting people to church? Are attenders more comfortable with the long-term pastor, vicar or priest who knows everyone and maintains stability?

Coaching: An Essential Ingredient

Freedom of SpeechPerspectives on Unemployment

Australia has a large and diligent labour force, comprising more than half of the population. Full-time and part-time employment are the two major sources of income for Australians, and as the labour force changes over time, finding and sustaining constant employment is becoming more and more difficult. Not only does employment provide money for essential staples such as food, water, shelter and electricity, it also provides a sense of self-worth and identity for many. Long-term employment allows for the development of skills, the expansion of social networks and the growth of friendships. By contrast, those who are unemployed have little to no continuous income, have less social interaction and may experience a loss of self-esteem and self-worth. Though unemployment seems overwhelmingly negative, it can often be a matter of perspective.