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Myth 8. Because worshipers are highly involved in their congregations, they spend little time being involved in their community.

First, are worshipers "highly involved in their congregations"? As one indicator, let's look at involvement in small groups within the congregation. Less than half of all worshipers are involved in small groups in their congregations. Small groups include, church school, Sabbath school, and other religious education classes; prayer groups, Bible study groups, and other spiritual development classes; and social groups or fellowships.

Involvement in Small Groups

Another indicator is the percentage of worshipers who are serving in leadership roles in their congregations -- serving on a committee or governing board, leading or singing in the choir, leading a small group, serving as a church school or other religious education teacher, or helping in planning or leading worship. The majority of worshipers do not hold any of these roles in their congregations. Just 38% do.

These results suggest that most worshipers are not highly involved in their congregations.

If worshiper are not "highly involved in their congregations," are they involved in their communities? We asked worshipers if they are involved in any "community service, social service, or advocacy groups." This would include, for example, participating in a Habitat for Humanity build, working with the homeless or those with disabilities, serving in a soup kitchen, or working to fight racism or other social injustice in the community. Almost half are involved in such activities. Two in ten participate in such activities through their congregations and more -- 31% -- do so apart from their congregations.

Community Service


We believe that congregations are often unaware of the social service activities their worshipers are involved in as individuals or families, or through other organizations or groups outside the congregation. And social service agencies that are benefitting from such service may be unaware that these individuals are serving because they are people of faith -- because their beliefs tell them that caring for those less fortunate than themselves and making a difference in the community is an important part of their faith.

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Last modified April 25, 2002 by U.S. Congregations Home Page Manager