HOW CULTURE SHAPES COMMUNITY: Bible Belief, Theological Unity, and a Sense of Belonging in Religious Congregations


Samuel Stroope, Department of Sociology, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97326, Waco, TX 76798-7326; e-mail:


Feeling that you belong in a group is an important and powerful need. The ability to foster a sense of belonging can also determine whether groups survive. Organizational features of groups cultivate feelings of belonging, yet prior research fails to investigate the idea that belief systems also play a major role. Using multilevel data (U.S. Congregational Life Survey,, this study finds that church members' traditional beliefs, group-level belief unity, and their interaction associate positively with members' sense of belonging. In fact, belief unity can be thought of as a “sacred canopy” under which the relationship between traditional beliefs and feelings of belonging thrives.