Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When non-churchgoers think about the contributions of a church to a community, they mostly think about ministry to the pour. But the research organization founded by George Barna, found that churches contribute in many more ways to the wellbeing of people and their communities. Read this article (and check out the accompanying chart) to see how.
Research Releases in Leaders & Pastors•July 13, 2011,
… How Churches Can Contribute?
Despite their positive feelings toward churches, many adults are unclear as to how churches could best serve their communities. One-fifth of adults (21%) did not venture a single response as to how churches could contribute positively to their communities. Among the unchurched, defined as those who have not attended a church in the last six months, fully one-third are not certain how congregations could be beneficial. [Note: the survey question asked, Many churches and faith leaders want to contribute positively to the common good of their community. What does your community need, if anything, that you feel churches could provide?]
Addressing poverty and helping the poor was the most common top-of-mind response Americans offered as to how churches can positively influence their communities (29%). This includes helping the needy, poor and disabled, distributing food and clothing, and assisting the homeless.
Americans also expect that churches would contribute positively by engaging in common ministry activities, such as teaching the Bible and giving spiritual direction (12%); serving youth, families and the elderly (13%); and cultivating biblical values in individuals and communities (14%). What kind of biblical values do people expect churches to espouse? Respondents not only said churches should teach and instill morals and values, but also believe they should cultivate a sense of belonging, show compassion and love toward others, and bring unity to the community.
Also, one in ten Americans (10%) believe that churches should assist those in recovery, providing counseling, support groups, and other forms of guidance and assistance to help lives get back on track.
One out of 14 adults (7%) said that churches can assist in terms of financial, career-related or other educational ways—such as helping the unemployed get jobs, giving financial assistance, providing financial counseling, and offering literacy classes.
Small percentages of adults mentioned that churches should be inclusive and accepting of everyone (3%) or that they should be engaged politically (1%) as a means of contributing to their communities.
… David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, offered four observations about the research findings:
1) Churches are perceived to be an important element of a community, even among the unchurched. This positive view is partly due to the fact that most unchurched adults are de-churched, or former churchgoers. So, although they may be wary of personal involvement, they have an understanding of the service and assistance that churches can provide to their communities.
2) Indifference toward churches is a key feature of skeptics’ opinions.Even among the most non-religious adults—atheists and agnostics—the majority simply express neutral perspectives about the role of congregations. Only 14% of this segment is negative toward churches. Despite the aggressive posture of leading skeptics, most Americans who have no religious affiliation or belief are not overtly hostile to churches. Their response is better characterized as benign indifference.
3) Churches are not thought of as contributing to civic enhancement, beyond poverty assistance. Most people do not connect the role of faith communities to civic affairs, particularly local efforts like assisting city government, serving public education, doing community clean-up, or engaging in foster care and adoption, and so on. There are opportunities for faith leaders to provide more intentional, tangible, and much-needed efforts to assist local government, particularly as many services have been diminished by the economy.
4) Introducing people to a transformed life in Christ is rarely perceived to be an act of community service. There seems to be a disconnect for most Americans between serving the community and helping individuals find their way to God through Christ. Ministry-related goals – such as teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ, and bringing people to salvation – are infrequently viewed as a primary way to serve the community. Even among many churchgoers, contributing positively to the community is perceived to be the result of offering the right mix of public service programs. Yet, this seems to miss an important biblical pattern: you change communities by transforming lives.
Read more at … https://www.barna.com/research/do-churches-contribute-to-their-communities/