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Pentecostals win hands down in community engagement study

Dr John Harrison
Pentecostal churches were the greatest contributors to social capital in the Ipswich region, according new research completed by University of Queensland academic Dr John Harrison. “Social capital is a short hand way of describing the level of community engagement a congregation has”, Dr Harrison told Journey.

“Those churches which create strong and inclusive social networks which generate friendships based on trust and reciprocity will continue to grow.” The study was a pilot which the research team plans to replicate in other parts of the state shortly. “I would expect the results to be similar, but you never know”, he said.

“While we can never deny the place of faith and faithfulness in the life of the church, indicators like social capital tell us how we are travelling, and give us some clues about what is actually happening on the ground; and what works and what doesn’t”, Dr Harrison said.

The study showed that while 54% of the population was nominally Anglican, RC or Uniting, that only 30% of the church-based social capital was generated by these churches. On the other hand, the AOG and other Pentecostal churches were 2.4% of the Census but produced a massive 20.1% of the church-based social capital in the city.

“The problem for the Big Three – Roman Catholics, Anglicans and the Uniting Church, is they don’t have the level of individual community engagement they used to have. They have outsourced their caring, if you like, to chaplaincies, and professionalised service agencies.

“I think there is a message in this for the Uniting Church,” Dr Harrison said. “Stop fiddling around with peripheral issues like Proposition 84, and get on with the job of being salt, light and leaven in your communities.”

A full copy of the research paper can be found at UQ e.prints http://eprint.uq.edu.au/view/person/Harrison,_John.html after December 1, 2005.

Photo : Dr John Harrison