The good works of churches often go unnoticed by Americans

(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

(RNS)—At least half of Americans realize that churches feed and clothe the poor but far fewer are aware of other social services that congregations provide, a new study shows.

LifeWay Research found that 60 percent of Americans know of churches that have fed the hungry in the last six months. Half knew of instances where they provided clothing to the poor.

Advertisement

But scant percentages of the 1,000 Americans surveyed knew that church members teach job skills or help immigrants learn English (13 percent), volunteer to provide foster care (12 percent) or offer tax preparation assistance (8 percent).

“Unless you’ve received help from a church—or been involved in serving others—these kinds of programs may fly under the radar,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of the Nashville, Tenn.-based evangelical research firm.

About a third of Americans knew of churches’ work to help disaster victims (39 percent) and shelter the homeless (33 percent). But only a quarter were aware of church members visiting prisoners (25 percent) or offering after-school programs (24 percent).

Though the Bible speaks of clothing the naked and feeding the hungry, a significant number of Americans haven’t heard of churches providing any of the 13 service programs cited in the study. And 17 percent were not sure.

Researchers were not surprised to learn that people who frequent churches were more aware of these activities.

But less than a third (30 percent) of people who attend services at least once a month knew of churches that had tutored schoolchildren, compared to 8 percent of those who attend less than once a month.

The findings were based on 1,000 surveys completed Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016, and have an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

 Pope Francis and Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski stand outside the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, Jan.19.(CNS photo//Mariana Bazo, Reuters)
“The degradation of the environment...cannot be separated from the moral degradation of our communities.”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 20, 2018
The U.S. bishops had an unusually busy year issuing positive and negative statements about the new president, but some hoped for more decisive action against his policies.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 19, 2018
Transgender patients “need to know they are welcome and they will not be looked down upon” if they come to Catholic institutions seeking treatment, says Sister Carol Keehan.
Kevin ClarkeJanuary 19, 2018
Francis is the first pope to come to the Amazon region, and he insisted that his first event and major speech of his visit to Peru should be to this place.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 19, 2018