economics of religion class congregation observation project


J: Southern Baptist “megachurch”


1 Saddleback Pkwy

Lake Forest, CA 92630


Before observing each service: Learn something about the particular congregation you’ll be attending and if at all possible learn something about the denomination that it is part of. Start with the group’s own website and/or the website of its denomination. The ARDA website also provides a great deal of information about different religious denominations. See their “Congregational Resource Center” And, of course, you can find additional information on Wikipedia and other religion-related websites. Just be careful not to focus on websites designed to attack religion or the particular group. There are, for example, numerous anti-Mormon, anti-Witness, and anti-Christian sites.

Be sure to check the meeting times, and call ahead if you have any concerns or questions. Try to contact a congregational official in advance. Explain your desire to visit as an observer; ask permission; ask if there’s any special information you should know before attending; ask if you can obtain additional information about the congregation and religion from a congregational official (or available literature) during your visit.


You’re there as a “participant observer.” So don’t pretend to be something you’re not, and don’t feel compelled to contribute money, or buy anything, or act in ways that make you uncomfortable. If the group provides free literature about itself, pick up anything that looks informative starting with any program or materials that they pass out to everyone.


After attending the service: Fill out the observation checklist attached below and try to learn a little more about the congregation and/or its parent denomination (see part 6 of the checklist). Attach any printed materials you picked up at the service.

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