Connecting with Community and Facilitating Learning through the Little Rock Congregations Study


  • Rebecca Glazier University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Gerald Driskill University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Kirk Leach University of Arkansas at Little Rock



religion, higher education, community engagement, community-based research, collaboration


Places of worship play important roles as anchor institutions that promote community engagement and motivate political activity. Universities, particularly in urban settings, can also serve as anchor institutions that connect communities. Yet, there is often a gulf between the two, to the detriment of the broader community. In this article, we present the Little Rock Congregations Study (LRCS) as an approach to community engagement with faith-based organizations in an urban setting. This research project, based at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, involves an interdisciplinary team focused on understanding and improving the community engagement of congregations in the city of Little Rock since 2012. We present qualitative and quantitative data to illustrate the benefits of our approach, including research results returned to community organizations, greater visibility of the university in the community, student involvement in research and with faith-based organizations, and substantive findings that inform the greater body of knowledge and our own community. Through more than eight years of community-based work on the LRCS we provide six key lessons learned for researchers and students building relationships with religious leaders that can help bridge the gulf between these two key community institutions.


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