Changes in Church Demographics: Social Services and Politics

Social services

Now, here’s an interesting observation —

And even after the Bush administration’s “faith-based initiative,” there is no increase since 1998 in the extent of congregational involvement in social services, in the percent of congregations receiving public funds in support of their social service work, or in the extent of congregations’ collaborations with government.

This is not true. The figures do support the last two conclusions, but there is a vast increase in social services involvement. The study reports that far more churches have had groups working with community organizations speak to the church (22% to 31%). And far more have done a community needs assessment (from 37% to 48%). English as a second language work is up from 9% to 14%. There’s been a 50% increase in volunteers involved in community service.

It looks like we are seeing a very substantial change toward community involvement. Whoever wrote the executive summary didn’t read the numbers very well at all.

Politics

Even though both major political parties continue their efforts to mobilize congregations, congregations in 2006-07 report approximately the same levels of involvement in a variety of political activities that they reported in 1998.

But then 1998 was only two years removed from Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority. The reality, I think, is that we are much more politically active than in, say, 1980, but likely less so than four years ago — the beginning of Bush’s second term. I think churches are, on the whole, increasingly disillusioned with politics.

The trend is seen in the fact that twice as many churches spoke to their members about voter registration in 2006 than in 1998 and an increase in lobbying from 4.4% of churches to 7.9%. Political activism was up over 8 years before, but, I think, it’s peaked and starting to decline.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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