Community Cohesiveness as a Factor in Successful Urban Outreach.

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Practical Theology

First Advisor

Klaus Detlev Schulz


The study examined the relationship between growing urban churches and their immediate neighborhoods. It was theorized that the cohesiveness (or neighborliness) of a church's neighborhood would have an impact on the successful outreach approaches of growing urban churches. Neighborhood cohesiveness was assessed using the Sense of Community Index. The outreach approaches of the subject congregations were studied utilizing survey data and interviews with church leaders.

The cohesiveness of urban neighborhoods was found to vary significantly. While there was no correlation between the cohesiveness of a neighborhood and the successful outreach approaches employed by urban churches, several other important findings were made.

The findings suggest that urban churches can be classified into two distinct types: "neighborhood" churches and "metropolitan" churches. At the outset, operational definitions were proposed for the neighborhood church type, and the metropolitan church type. The operational definitions were based on whether the church was located in either a cohesive or non-cohesive community.

Although the operational definitions were not supported, other results of the study supported the two-type classification system. Churches demonstrated a preference for either a neighborhood-style of outreach, or a metropolitan-style of outreach. Metropolitan churches grow by increasing the visibility of their church, by increasing the number of unmediated contacts, and by offering gateway activities. Neighborhood churches grow by concentrating outreach efforts on cohesive neighborhoods, even if those neighborhoods are not geographically near the church.

Based on prior research, the study proposes that a functional definition of neighborhood is .25 mile from a given point. For the most part, the growing urban churches in the study demonstrated an extremely weak relationship to their immediate neighborhood. The results of this study question the wisdom of urging urban churches to evangelize their neighborhood, and question the assumption that a shift in neighborhood demographics has an impact on the growth of an urban church.


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