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Sunday cultures: A qualitative empirical project about the spiritual quality of Sundays

Sunday cultures:
A qualitative empirical project about the spiritual quality of Sundays

Project team

Director: Ulrich Riegel

Students: Anne Höffer, Carolin Brenner, Jana Meyer, Melanie Bothor, Susanne Pünzeler, Silvia Stutz, Annika Poser, Anna Hennecke, Sarah Zimmermann, Christina Beutler, Benedikt Schneider, Sarah Gebekken, Antje Krutwig, Annika Achenbach, Carolin Oswald, Sandra Herbst

Problem context

Christianity observes Sunday as the day of the Lord. On this day believers should interrupt their everyday lives and come to rest, in order to consciously remember the saving act of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore believers are compelled to not work on Sundays and to attend the celebration of the Eucharist. Up to the 1960s, this Christian practise defined the Sunday culture in Germany.

Sunday has remained the societal day of rest up to today. Even when one assumes that currently 20% of the working population works on Sunday, its special character remains legally protected. However, the Sunday cultures have changed. Only a minority of society practises typical Christian customs such as attending the Eucharist. In an Allensbach survey from 2002, the most common activities on a Sunday were: „relaxing at home“ (63%), „watching television“ (61%), „sleeping in“ (56%), „taking walks“ (54%) and „visiting friends/relatives“ (50%). Bernhard Nuss refers to a change „from a recuperative to a consumerist and experience-filled time.“

This shift poses the question of the spiritual quality of Sunday. Explicit religious connotations have doubtlessly faded into the background in most present day Sunday cultures. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that Sunday has lost its spiritual dimension. The project „Sunday cultures“ thus enquires into the spiritual quality of Sunday.

Research questions

The project assesses the spiritual quality of Sunday cultures with these three research questions:

  1. How do people normally spend their Sunday, particularly children and young people?
  2. How do they experience these activities, i.e. how important are these activities to those surveyed and what emotions does the memory of these activities evoke?
    1. Does the person speaking feel connected to something in this activity?
    2. With whom or what does the person feel connected?
  3. If typical Christian customs such as attending the Eucharist are not a part of the Sunday culture they explain: what emotions and experiences do they associate with these customs?


The project follows a qualitative, empirical design. The data is collected through semi-structured interviews. They are divided into three sections. The first section is narrative: in it those surveyed tell how they spend a typical Sunday and how they experience these activities. The second part consists of immanent questions, i.e. clarifies the parts told which left questions unanswered. The third part consists of exmanent questions, thus it addresses the parts of the research questions which could not be answered in the narrative parts.

When surveying children and youth with lower linguistic abilities, the narrative element is changed so that the children can reconstruct their last Sunday by using a day scheme and then rate each activity on a scale of how great the experience of this activity was for them.


Not yet available.

Participation opportunity for students in the scope of their research theses

Students are very welcome to participate in the project „Sunday cultures“ in the scope of their theses. The focus of their work will be on the collection, documentation and analysis of interviews. It consists of interviewing 10 children, youth or adults, documenting these interviews digitally (on CD-ROM), transcribing these (typing them up) and evaluating them based on the abovementioned research questions. In the evaluation it has proved useful to analyse three interviews in detail and confirm or supplement these findings with relevant passages from the remaining interviews. Thus the amount of work for the analysis is comparable to that which is required for a sound research thesis.

We recommend focussing on one age group. It makes conducting the interviews easier (e.g. children must be asked research questions differently than young people) and simplifies the comparison of the stories. In addition, it is practical to choose the survey participants so that each stands for different Sunday culture, i.e. that they spend their Sundays differently. This is legitimate according to the theoretical sampling and it gives you the chance to understand your thesis in a wide spectrum. It is also not a problem if those surveyed come from your own environment (friends, acquaintances, relatives), however, it is helpful for your later lessons to choose survey subjects from the type of school in which you aim to teach.

As a participant in the project „Sunday cultures,“ you may of course use the resources available. Such resources currently include:
  •  A collection of academic texts about „spirituality,“ „theological Sunday,“ and „sociological Sunday.“ These can be used in order to write ones own theoretical introduction chapter for the thesis.
  • A guideline for the interviews. This guideline must be implemented in order to collect comparable data. However, it must be utilised in an age-apropriate way which is suitable for the individual interviews. It provides you with a rough orientation for the course of the interviews, but it does not replace your communication abilities and your abilities to become attuned to the survey subjects.
  • An outline draft. It helps you in structuring your thesis and provides information about many stages of the analysis.

Those interested may directly contact me or write me an email (ulrich.riegel@uni-siegen.de).