Are churches fixing a problem in your neighborhood?

In the mid-20th century, people belonged to many more clubs and associations. Someone might be part of a softball league, the PTA, the Lions Club, help the local Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, and have an extended family nearby.

Sure, people still gather. But it’s not the same as it was. Membership in all those organizations has dropped way down and continues to fall. For instance, participation in the Lions, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs has dropped significantly since 1975.

And with the disappearance of that way of life, we have less connections to and less interactions with people who can lift us up and who are always there for us. It’s no secret that churches, temples, and other faith communities in America are also afflicted by these same trends.

But let me tell you why a decline in the health of faith organizations is an alarming problem for your neighborhood… Churches and other faith organizations provide vital social services to your community members, regardless of their theology. In fact, studies dating back to the 1990s find that the typical community church provides about $150,000 worth of social services per year.

In addition, faith-based neighborhood partnerships provide even more economic and social support than churches alone. We’ve learned that partnerships with faith organizations strengthen civic engagement and social support. Results of these efforts include increased economic activity for local business, improved early childhood education, and more nonprofit startup-ups in your community.

Below I have included an infographic to illustrate how powerful these faith organizations are in your hometown. This graphic was compiled from the research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Professor Ram Cnaan and they show upwards of a $6 million per year impact for a single church.

Some of the highlights from First Baptist Church in Philadelphia include:   

-  Reduced crime rate: a reduction of $64,416 (crimes within neighborhood compared with  surrounding neighborhoods x $2,210)

-  Getting people off drugs and alcohol: $78,750 ($15,750 per person helped)

-  Volunteer hours worked: $94,770 (weekly hours x 52 weeks x $20.25)

- Helping people gain employment: $725,000 ($14,500 per-arranged employment)

-  Suicide prevention: $58,800 ($19,600 per person saved through clergy intervention) 

If you care about your community and want to fix these problems then you should support a local faith organization. Whether you do or do not consider yourself a spiritual person, I recommend finding a local faith organization, learning about the community outreach services they provide and exploring how you can make a positive social impact.