church growth, research methods


The role of hypotheses is central both in church-related research and in Christian ministry. Hypotheses guide the collection of data to determine what is true in research and provide tentative guidelines for action in ministry, even when they are not yet confirmed. Well-constructed hypotheses are based on previous research and provide clear potential solutions to research problems. They succinctly posit a testable relationship between two or more variables. Such hypotheses can be tested through appropriately designed research. Statistical techniques can indicate to what degree the evidence collected supports the hypotheses. In church-based research, hypotheses to be examined can come from a body of literature (e.g., the Church Growth Movement), a practitioner’s experience, theories from other domains (e.g., the Social Brain Hypothesis; Dunbar, 1993), and modeling phenomena using analogies (e.g., modeling the church lifecycle as an epidemic; Hayward, 2015, 2018).