Because so little sociological research has focused on New Thought groups in general and Unity in particular, the opportunity for continued research is enormous. Although Unity at present is a relatively small movement in comparison with mainline denominations, the possibility for growth is substantial. This potential, coupled with the fact that the Association of Unity Churches is now emphasizing evangelization through marketing and public relations techniques, makes Unity a church to watch in the 20th Century. Following are a few suggestions for further research:
1. A more in-depth survey with randomly sampled participants from throughout the movement should be undertaken in order to generalize the findings to the Unity movement as a whole.
2. Because Unity is just one of many smaller religions which are drawing members from the ranks of mainline churches, further research could concentrate on these smaller religions, including other New Thought groups like Divine Science and Religious Science.
3. Further research should investigate more specific reasons why the Unity movement appeals to distinct demographic groups.
4. An interesting research study would be to evaluate the teachings of different Unity ministers regarding the amount of authority with which they present their teachings. My hypothesis would be that ministers who preach with strong authority and are able to maintain Unity's doctrine of individual choice without judgment would have higher church attendance and growing churches, compared to ministers who present their material as a notion — something that they themselves believe but they aren't sure that you should believe it — and/or who only give lip service to the doctrine of individual choice.
5. The ability of Unity to maintain appeal to the children of current participants is important to the future of the movement and should be included in continued research of Unity.
Lastly, this research has implications for the continued sociological study of religion. Unity is a religion which touches a wide range of people with its prayer ministry, its daily devotional magazine and its literature, as well as through its churches. The true impact of Unity on the lives of individuals cannot be measured by membership and attendance statistics, which are the most common measures of religiosity used in the field. If individuals do not limit religiousity or spirituality to church attendance and membership, sociologists as well should break out of those limitations to fully understand the spirituality of the American individual.
© 1997, Rebecca Gittrich Whitecotton
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.