Focused on the Family? Religious Traditions, Family Discourse, and Pastoral Practice

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The relationship between religion and the family has recently reemerged as an important object of sociological inquiry. However, research has largely overlooked the ways in which the family discourse produced by specific religious traditions is connected to family-focused pastoral practices of congregations. Using data from the National Congregations Study, we find that family discourse and pastoral practice are only “loosely coupled” to one another. Ideological differences among mainline Protestant, conservative Protestant, and Roman Catholic congregations do not translate directly into differences in family ministry offerings. These findings help explain why research often finds that religion exercises uniform effects on family life, insofar as most congregations offer a similar package of ministries even though their family discourse is markedly different.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: W. Bradford Wilcox is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4766., Email: 2: Mark Chaves is Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona, PO Box 210027, Tucson, AZ 85721. 3: David Franz is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4766.

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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