Skip to main content


This is a good story! I don't have strong positive examples in mind, but I do know that I've appreciated times when pastors have addressed small children warmly and personnally, while I've felt very uncomfortable with some baptisms I've witnessed where the older siblings are "up front" but essentially ignored. It's a small but powerful thing just to treat them as people.

Thanks for the constructive engagement, Rev. Snapper. I have enjoyed our past conversations.

While I don't have the time to respond in full detail at the moment, I want to acknowledge your question in a timely manner and promise to endeavor to address it in detail before the coming weekend is out.

However, I can quickly note here that I don't see how your "bad data quality" hypothesis translates into material effects on the trends and their interpretation. While short-term reporting problems might mask the specific trend in a given year, there's really no way I can think of for retail data collection problems (such as your example of the local clerk coping with controversy) to mask the overall trend. In order for us to have missed the real story, your hypothetical clerk would have had to be underreporting membership during the run up to controversy to a similar degree he or she was underreporting afterward. Suppose a church had a typical 300-member head count. If that head count was on the books in, say, 1989, and said clerk then stopped reporting and the church left the CRC for the URC, we'd still show a net loss of 300 members on the books eventually, even if it doesn't appear in the correct year.

I'll be happy to be corrected if there's a scenario my imagination hasn't arrived at--what am I missing? I do have the congregation-level data beginning in 1985, so we should be able to test data-quality hypotheses pretty straightforwardly.

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post