How Do People Perceive Religious Meaning in Faith-Based Social Services?
From the Congregations, Communities and Leadership Development Project Directed by Ronald J. Sider and Heidi Rolland Unruh While church-based social service programs often look similar to secular programs in terms of goods or services provided, they may be shaped by significant differences in what the social service means to staff and volunteers — what motivates them to participate, what outcomes they are hoping for, and how it is fulfilling to them personally. Our research suggests four main ways that social service has religious meaning (specifically, in the Christian context) for those involved. (This does not include meanings that religious and non-religious people may hold in common, such as compassion or the value of good citizenship.) 1. Religion provides a mandate for social action. “I became a human rights activist because of my relationship with God—I knew God would not want these things to happen.” This religious meaning rests on a perception of the good that God intends for