American Megachurches: Community Service

An area where significant proactive change clearly seems to be taking place among megachurches is within social ministry and community service programming and involvement. In 2000 a third (34%) of megachurches affirmed their congregation was “working for social justice.” By 2005, nearly a half (49%) of congregations somewhat or strongly agreed this phrase described them well and in 2008 51% of churches affirmed this.In the 2008 study, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the megachurches stated that community service activities were given a lot of programmatic emphasis in the past year or were a specialty of the church. Fifty-eight percent of churches say they invite new members to volunteer for service in the community. Additionally 90% of the megachurches surveyed agree that the phrase “We are a positive force for good in our community” describes them quite or very well. It is important to note, however, that the focus on social ministry, community outreach and social justice are emphases increasingly shared by over half of megachurches.

Well, this helps explain why megachurches are less conservative, although still conservative. As they get more involved in social justice issues — caring for the poor and suffering — they move toward the political middle, seeing the value of government services but also their limitations — a position which is neither Republican nor Democrat.

It also explains some of the multi-ethnic attractiveness of these churches. Many minority communities are repelled by the Christian right, which has historically been opposed to programs aimed at relieving the suffering of the poor. As megachurches actually get involved in social justice efforts, they show a heart of compassion that’s attractive across racial lines.

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