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American Congregations and Social Service Programs: Results of a Survey

Category: Scope and Scale of Services

Document Type: Report

American congregations are delivering a wide-range of social services – from marriage counseling to food pantries – to their members and surrounding communities. But relatively few congregations are applying for government funds to provide those services, or know about changes in federal law over the last 10 years meant to ease the way for them to do so.

Those are among the findings of this survey of congregations around the country, authored by John Green, political science professor at the University of Akron and a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The survey results are particularly significant in light of the goals of the Bush Administration’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative. That effort seeks to encourage smaller religious charities to contract with the government to provide services. The congregations surveyed represent the very types of religious groups targeted by the Initiative – smaller, grassroots organizations, as opposed to longstanding faith-based social service providers with established national reach.

Of those congregations that have competed for government funds, almost 80 percent report difficulty in applying for and managing the grants. Those that did not apply listed concern about external control and a lack of space for new grant-funded activities as their key reasons.

The report also provides information on congregations’ sources of revenue for social services, staffing considerations, and interest in expanding their social service offerings, among other things.

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Publication Date: 01/06/2008

Number of Pages: 74