Congregations and Social Services: What They Do, How They Do It, and with Whom
The charitable choice policy initiative has renewed attention to religion's role in the U.S. social welfare system. The authors use data from the 1998 National Congregations Study to provide a portrait of congregations' social service activities, emphasizing features of this portrait that are relevant to ongoing policy debates. In particular, they assess two claims often made about religiously based social services: Religious organizations represent an alternative to secular or government organizations by providing "holistic" and personalistic services focused on long-term solutions to individuals' problems, and collaborations with secular, especially government, organizations threaten to undermine that approach to social services. Results support neither of these claims. Congregation-based social services are not an alternative to the world of secular nonprofit or government-supported social services; they are part of that world.
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