American Congregations and Social Service Programs: Results of a Survey

  • December 05, 2007
  • By John C. Green

In 2007, American congregations reported providing social services in a wide variety of program areas. Of the twenty-six program areas listed in the survey, the most common was marriage counseling, provided by two-thirds of all congregations, and the least common was vocational training, provided by less than one-tenth.

Congregational social services varied in terms of the nature of the beneficiaries, with four program areas largely serving members of the congregation, fifteen primarily serving the broader community, and seven serving both groups. The number of beneficiaries tended to be smaller for programs that primarily served congregation members and larger for those that primarily served the community.

Congregational social services also varied in terms of the means by which the services were delivered, with nine program areas provided substantially by the congregations, eleven by other agencies, and six balanced between the congregation and other agencies. Relatively few services were provided via a separate 501(c)(3). The number of volunteers participating in these programs tended to be smaller when congregations provided the service and tended to be larger when provided through another agency.