While many studies have examined the relationship between social ties and joining social movements and religious groups, few studies have investigated the relationship between social ties and the likelihood of exiting such groups. Additionally, research has not considered how geography affects the membership dynamics of geographically-based congregations, specifically whether factors associated with residential mobility may also affect congregational exit in geographically-based congregations.PurposeThe purpose of this study is to examine how familial ties and place of employment affect congregational exit in geographically-based congregations. Drawing on social network and residential mobility research, this study hypothesizes that having parents and/or adult children in the same congregation and having minor children decreases the likelihood of congregational exit and working farther away from the congregation increases it.Methods
This study draws on longitudinal archival data from one Amish congregation in the Holmes County Ohio Settlement. It tests the hypotheses using logistic regression models.ResultsThe results show that having one’s parents/adult children in the congregation and working close to the congregation are associated with a reduced likelihood of congregational exit. Having minor children in one’s household is not associated with congregational exit.Conclusions and ImplicationsThis is one of the first studies to consider how geographical requirements for congregational membership has implications for congregational exit. Given the results, congregations may be able to increase member retention by creating multigenerational ministries that support extended families and by advertising in local places of employment. As occupations increasingly shift to being primarily outside the home, Amish congregations in particular may experience more member turnover and membership instability.