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Trends in Addressing Social Needs: A Longitudinal Study of Congregation-Based Service Provision and Political Participation

School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, 1315 E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
Academic Editor: Robert Wineburg
Religions 2016, 7(5), 51;
Received: 15 March 2016 / Revised: 2 May 2016 / Accepted: 3 May 2016 / Published: 7 May 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Welfare and Social Service Provision: Common Ground)
PDF [1637 KB, uploaded 17 May 2016]


When congregations seek to address social needs, they often pursue this goal through acts of service and political engagement. Over the past three decades, a tremendous amount of research has been dedicated to analyzing congregation-based service provision and political participation. However, little is known about how congregations’ involvement in these arenas has changed during this period. To help fill this gap, this study analyzes three waves of data from a national survey of congregations to assess how congregations’ participation patterns in service-related and political activities have been changing since the 1990s. It also examines trends among subpopulations of congregations grouped by their religious tradition, ethnoracial composition, and ideological orientation. Overall, this study finds that among most types of congregations, the percentage participating in service-related activities is substantial and increasing, while the percentage participating in political activities is less substantial and decreasing. This decline in political participation has implications for the role congregations play in addressing social needs. Relieving immediate needs through service provision without also pursuing long-term solutions through political participation can limit congregations’ ability to comprehensively address social needs. Among the few types of congregations that have high and/or increasing participation rates in both service-related and political activities are Catholic, predominantly Hispanic, and politically liberal congregations. View Full-Text
Keywords: social services; political participation; congregations social services; political participation; congregations

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Fulton, B.R. Trends in Addressing Social Needs: A Longitudinal Study of Congregation-Based Service Provision and Political Participation. Religions 2016, 7, 51.

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