Discover How Urban Congregations Engage With and Impact Their Communities

(and What Other Churches Can Learn from Them)


Just as urban centers have historically shaped the culture of art, education and business, churches in cities and urban neighborhoods are often forerunners of community ministry and transformation. 

Operating within dense and diverse neighborhoods creates a special opportunity for up-close and lived-out ministry—as well as some unique challenges. 

Here at Barna, we want to inform and support the leaders of urban churches (defined below). We also believe leaders in nonurban communities have an opportunity to learn from and potentially partner with urban congregations. 

That’s why we’ve teamed up with World Impact to create a new research report called Inside the Urban Church: How Local Congregations Engage With and Impact Their Communities.

What You’ll Discover in This Report

  • Can strong Christian faith grow in increasingly secularized contexts?
  • How can we champion the pursuit of racial justice in painfully polarized times?
  • How do we come alongside those facing the problems of poverty and homelessness?
  • What can churches offer to soothe anxiety and help people heal from traumatic experiences?
  • What on earth do we do with our physical buildings Monday through Saturday?

As you go Inside the Urban Church, may you be compelled by a fresh vision for fostering healthy churches and flourishing people, in every location.


How “Urban” and Other Key Terms Are Defined in This Report

You may hear “urban” used interchangeably or conflated with various terms in conversation, but we want to be precise with how we apply it in our research and this report. Further, as not all respondents in the cities we surveyed are technically analyzed as “urban,” we hope the following definitions provide clarity for your reading:

  • “Urban” is defined by a metric used by the U.S. Census Bureau, which refers to any area that includes 425 housing units per square mile. Respondents and churches located in a zip code where housing meets this threshold are classified as “urban.”

  • “Nonurban” refers to residents or churches that do not occupy a high-density urban neighborhood in the cities surveyed.

  • At times we’ll use the term “metro” as a synonym for all respondents or churches in this study, both urban and nonurban.

  • Inside the Urban Church Research, by the Numbers

    • 8 major U.S. metropolitan areas

    • 10 pastor interviewees
    • 5 community leader interviewees

    • 5 civic leader interviewees
    • 8 focus groups with 40 unchurched interviewees

    • 2,000 survey respondents

Produced in Partnership with