What Do You Mean By Average?

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If we expect congregation to assume a larger role in providing public services, we must begin with realistic expectations, based on a fair accounting of the enormous breadth and variety among congregations as organizations. We can accurately describe the mean and median sizes of congregational memberships and budgets in Indianapolis, but the numbers require interpretation. The majority of congregations are smaller and have less money than early studies would lead us to believe. The top tier of congregations—the largest one-fifth—have a very large share of the members and control a very large share of the money. In some urban neighborhoods the single largest congregation accounts for as much as 90 percent of all social service spending by congregations. Only 20 percent of congregations actually spend as much on social services as the mean-average. When only one-fifth of a group is "average" or above, there is something misleading about the term. Roundtable discussion follows essay.

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