We believe that evolving times call for innovative approaches, and we're here to explore what that means for the next generation of clergy leaders. 

You've probably noticed some significant religious changes happening across the United States lately. It's quite a shift, isn't it? We firmly believe that churches, seminaries, denominations, and allied organizations can adapt and thrive in the midst of these cultural transformations.

To help with that, we rely on the powerful tools of social science. By delving deeper into the impacts of these shifts, we can gain a better understanding of what's going on and how to navigate the future successfully. Our aim is to spark meaningful conversations and develop valuable resources that focus on training and shaping faith leaders and communities, all for the greater good.

We Serve:
  • UMC clergy and denominational leaders in NC
  • Duke Divinity School students, staff & faculty
  • Theological educators across North America
  • Academic audiences in religion and sociology
  • Practitioners helping religious communities adapt to new realities
Ask Us About Our Research On:
  • Seminary to early ministry experiences
  • Politics and polarization in congregations
  • The experiences of pastors of color in the UMC
  • Racial pay disparities in the UMC
  • Social influences in vocational call stories
  • Pastoral ministry in unsettled times

Fresh Insights. Smart Conversations. Grounded Resources.

From the moment you step foot in seminary to the long and fulfilling journey ahead, we're here to provide the insights you need to thrive. Our approach is rooted in research, meaning we dig deep into the latest data, collaborate with experts, and seek out evidence-based strategies that truly make a difference. Together, we'll explore healthy and sustainable strategies for a life in ministry, address the unique challenges and opportunities you'll encounter along the way, and dive into thought-provoking discussions about the future of theological education.   

The times are changing, and we're here to help you thrive. Let's get started!



Smart Conversations

We know that as seminarians and clergy you face unique challenges in your calling. That's why we've crafted data-driven workshops and seminars that address the specific hurdles you may encounter along the way. From navigating your theological studies to developing healthy habits in your early years of ministry to adapting to evolving times, we've got compelling insights to help you strategize and discern the path ahead. 

Upcoming events & workshops

Signature Studies

Our signature studies shed light on the world of theological education and the ever-evolving landscape of religious communities. Whether you're a student seeking valuable insights, an academic enthusiast in religion and sociology, or a practitioner navigating the challenges of adapting religious communities to new realities, you're in the right place!

Learn more about our signature studies

Grounded Resources

Whether you're a seminary student navigating the throes of theological studies or a seasoned clergy member seeking fresh inspiration, our research-based recommendations are designed to support your unique challenges. Our goal is to equip you with the context and knowledge you need to make informed decisions that have a positive and lasting impact on your career, your calling, and your community. 

Download Resources

Published Research

When Shepherds Shed: Trajectories of Weight-Related Behaviors in a Holistic Health Intervention Tailored for US Christian Clergy Journal of Religion & Health (2023) 

Is There a Crisis in Clergy Health?: Reorienting Research Using a National Sample. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2023)

US Religious Leaders' Views on the Etiology and Treatment of Depression. Jama Psychiatry (2023)

Programming Provided by Religious Congregations in the United States to Address
Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder.
Journal of Religion and Health (2023)

Divine Struggles Among Those Doing God’s Work: A Longitudinal Assessment Predicting Depression and Burnout and the Role of Social Support in United Methodist Clergy. Sociology ofReligion (2023)

The Resilience of Clergywomen?: Gender and the Relationship between Occupational Distress and Mental Health among Congregational Leaders. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2022)

Seminary students and physical health: beliefs, behaviors, and barriersJournal of Religion and Health (2022)

The Gap in Mental Health Service Utilization Among United Methodist Clergy with Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Religion and Health (2022)

Age differences in trajectories of depressive, anxiety, and burnout symptoms in a population with a high likelihood of persistent occupational distress. International Psychogeriatrics (2022)

Social networks, support, and depressive symptoms: gender differences among clergy. Socius (2019)

Perceived social support, received social support, and depression among clergy. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (2018)


Featured Content


Pastoring in a Pandemic: Sources and Types of Social Support Used by United Methodist Clergy in the Early Period of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Based on interviews with 50 UMC clergy, we explore the sources and types of social support clergy relied on during the early period of the pandemic. The data revealed that practical support from lay leaders and emotional check-ins from denominational leaders were highly meaningful.

Read the Article

Being a clergywoman is a risk factor for stress - and a source of strength

Clergywomen report more on-the-job stress than clergymen, but they’re less likely to show depressive symptoms, suggesting they may be particularly well-suited to cope with the challenges of the profession. Read the research here and download our quick take summary and reflection questions below.


Download Reflection Questions

Thank you to our supporters!

The Research & Social Change Lab (RaSCL)) is funded by The Duke Endowment, a collaborative initiative between the Duke Divinity School, Duke Global Health Institute, and the Department of Sociology, giving it a strong theological underpinning and the excellence of Duke’s research environment.