Congregational social services
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In the United States, the current social welfare policies emphasize local responsibility and faith-based organizations’ involvement in social safety net systems. This study was to explore congregational leaders perceptions related to social services and examine congregational social services provided in the Athens metropolitan area of Georgia. At two times of data collection, 109 local congregations participated in this study. This study collected various facets of congregational leaders’ perceptions related to social services and congregational social service program information by paper-based questionnaires and face-to-face interviews. Descriptive statistics (frequencies and mean), independent sample t-tests, and bivariate/multivariate regression analyses were used to analyze quantitative data. General thematic analysis was used to examine qualitative data. Local congregations were not only interested in social services but actively participated in them. Based on the programs identified by congregational leaders, the 109 congregations participated in 977 programs, an average of nine programs per congregation. The congregations spent a total of $1,883,440 annually: an average of $17,279 per congregation. The main reason for congregations to engage in social services was to honor and obey God/Jesus. However, in most of the congregational social service programs, there were no spiritual or evangelistic activities. Congregations had an open attitude toward collaborating with other organizations including secular and government agencies. However, they did not want to receive public money to do social services because they did not want government control in any congregational activities. The key determinant of congregational involvement in social services was congregational resources (people and money): the greater resources a congregation had, the higher involvement in social services. Having alternative programs to social services, theological orientation (liberal) and open attitudes of collaboration showed positive associations with the extent of involvement. From the findings of this study, there were six recommendations to encourage congregations to engage in social services: (1) learn/study about the congregation, (2) build trusting relationships, (3) engage with the congregation, (4) establish common grounds of interest, (5) advertize social service programs, and (6) be flexible.