Saving Souls, Serving Society: Understanding the Faith Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry

Hardcover | October 15, 2005

byHeidi Rolland Unruh, Ronald J. Sider

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Recent years have seen unprecedented attention to faith-based institutions as agents of social change, spurred in part by cuts in public funding for social services and accompanied by controversy about the separation of church and state. The debate over faith-based initiatives has highlighteda small but growing segment of churches committed to both saving souls and serving society. What distinguishes faith-based from secular activism? How do religious organizations express their religious identity in the context of social services? How do faith-based service providers interpret theconnection between spiritual methodologies and socioeconomic outcomes? How does faith motivate and give meaning to social ministry? Drawing on case studies of fifteen Philadelphia-area Protestant churches with active outreach, Saving Souls, Serving Society seeks to answer these and other pressingquestions surrounding the religious dynamics of social ministry. While church-based programs often look similar to secular ones in terms of goods or services rendered, they may show significant differences in terms of motivations, desired outcomes, and interpretations of meaning. Church-basedprograms also differ from one another in terms of how they relate evangelism to their social outreach agenda. Heidi Rolland Unruh and Ronald J. Sider explore how churches navigate the tension between their spiritual mission and the constraints on evangelism in the context of social services. Theauthors examine the potential contribution of religious dynamics to social outcomes as well as the relationship between mission orientations and social capital. Unruh and Sider introduce a new vocabulary for describing the religious components and spiritual meanings embedded in social action, andprovide a typology of faith-based organizations and programs. Their analysis yields a framework for Protestant mission orientations that makes room for the diverse ways that churches interrelate spiritual witness and social compassion. Based on their observations, the authors offer a constructiveapproach to church-state partnerships and provide a far more objective understanding of faith-based social services than previously available.

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From the Publisher

Recent years have seen unprecedented attention to faith-based institutions as agents of social change, spurred in part by cuts in public funding for social services and accompanied by controversy about the separation of church and state. The debate over faith-based initiatives has highlighteda small but growing segment of churches comm...

Heidi Rolland Unruh is Associate Director of the Congregations, Community Outreach, and Leadership Development Project. She lives in Hutchinson, Kansas. Ronald J. Sider is Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, PA. He is also Director of the Congregations, Comm...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:356 pages, 6.3 × 9.29 × 1.1 inPublished:October 15, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195161556

ISBN - 13:9780195161557

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"Faith-based organizations do a lot of good in society-that much we already know. What Unruh and Sider tell us is why and how. Knowing that the answer is not a simple one will surely help policy-makers choose more wisely. Knowing that the answer doesn't fall neatly into liberal v conservativeboxes will surely enlarge the imaginations of religious leaders and social scientists alike. All of them should read this book."--Nancy Ammerman, author of Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and their Partners