A Quick Question
Over 80% of US congregations help those in need. True or false?
The quick answer: TRUE!
The longer answer: A recent study of US congregations reported an almost 85% participation rate in soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and financial assistance – and this is not a new concept. Churches, mosques and synagogues alike have been providing services such as tutoring, elderly housing, and substance abuse therapy for some time.
The Faith Communities Today (FACT) study, headed by David Roozen and Carl Dudley of Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary, points to evidence that America’s congregations are deeply involved with the type of volunteerism that President Bush called on Americans to provide following the September 11th disasters. Carl Dudley states that "the religious practice of caring for and about others is nearly universal in America. People are thankful and want to share - regardless of their theology or liturgical practices."
And they are sharing. Congregations not only provide their own form of services but collaborate with other local faith-based agencies, businesses, educational institutions and government programs to meet the needs of community members struggling with food, shelter, daycare, or financial stresses, as indicated in the graphic below.
Many of these ministries, which take place in urban as well as suburban areas, have direct connections to local and federal government agencies which help center-city based religious groups in providing much needed child or health related assistance. Historic African American congregations lead the way in outreach with an average of 8.7 different ministries available to the community while Liberal Protestant groups stand closely by with an average of 7.1. In addition, the Muslim population, although distinct in its beliefs, is growing and providing more social ministries similar in structure to other faith communities.
The FACT research project was conducted by 41 religious groups and denominations and has proven to be the most extensive research ever undertaken on congregational activities and motivations.
Congregational involvement in needs-based programs is not surprising to Carl Dudley who refers to these services as a "safety net." He states, "From one coast to the other, American congregations are engaged in caring ministries. Where pain is greatest, churches, synagogues and mosques respond."
For more information on FACT, visit the web site at http://fact.hartsem.edu.
Also, visit our section on Faith-Based Social Services and Charitable Choice.
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