Do Americans Notice How Churches Help Communities?
LifeWay research reveals blind spots.
Do Americans Notice How Churches Help Communities?

While you and other Christians may be aware of your local churches’ outreach ministries, LifeWay research reveals that those services are often unheard of in their wider communities.

Recently, LifeWay posed the following survey question: “Which, if any, of the following areas of service have you heard local Christian churches or their members doing in the last six months?” A list of options was then provided, offering service areas such as feeding the hungry or providing aid for new mothers.

Sixty percent of respondents indicated that, in the last six months, they had heard of Christian churches or members offering the service of “feeding the hungry,” making it the most heard-about service that survey participants indicated. However, only 8 percent reported they were aware of churches or their members providing tax preparation service.

Less than 40 percent of respondents indicated they were aware of churches or church members providing services aside from “feeding the hungry” and “clothing the poor” in the past six months. These other areas of service included helping disaster victims and after-school programs.

Another lesser-known way churches are helping

The total value of social services that churches provide to the community may also not be known by many Americans. In 2011, data gathered by Ram Cnaan of the University of Pennsylvania revealed that services provided by churches are contributing to communities in a way people may be even less likely to recognize: through the economy.

Churches, on average, provided $476,663.24 of services in 2009 to their surrounding communities, Cnaan reported.

Cnaan’s research also looked at one church—First Baptist Church in the Philadelphia area—and demonstrated how it influenced its local economy. The data showed that First Baptist’s budget alone helped contribute to the economy: outreaches such as crime prevention and re-entry ($84,000) as well as helping people find employment ($725,000) were a large part of that.

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