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The Resourceful Believer: Generating Civic Skills in Church


Paul A. Djupe is assistant professor of political science, Denison University, Granville, OH 43230.

Christopher P. Gilbert is professor of political science, Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN 56082.


We investigate the conditions under which members practice politically relevant civic skills in church, generating a base of resourceful citizens equipped for political activity. Previous research has considered congregations to be black boxes, with sometimes unspecified and almost always untested processes operating to encourage civic skill development. In contrast, we conceptualize churches as diverse organizations and find evidence that the social homogeneity of church-based small groups allows for greater individual skill development. Moreover, members direct their energies toward the church and skill development when they are socially isolated from their communities. We also test the efficacy of clergy to promote skill development, finding mixed evidence. Overall, we find considerable support justifying the decision to open the black box and investigate the varied ways in which churches promote the acquisition of civic skills.