Perceptions of Religious Meaning in Faith-Based Social Services

Unruh, Heidi Rolland. “Perceptions of Religious Meaning in Faith-Based Social Services.” Unpublished paper. Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Conference, Boston, MA, November 5, 1999.

Heidi Unruh examines the range of possible religious meanings invested in church-based community development activities. She does this within a framework of: (1) service and the spiritual life of the self; (2) service and the spiritual life of others; and (3) spiritual foundations for social transformation. She also sets forth the focus or direction of the religious component of these modalities along with the assumptions underlying the relationship between the spiritual and the social realms. <p> Unruh adds further explanatory comments on the nature, purpose and relationship of these three modalities and concludes by showing how this understanding can help to: “(1) Predict/explain which churches/ministries are more likely to accept restrictions on explicit religious behavior as a condition of funding or partnership; (2) Predict/explain how churches may respond to the lifting of restrictions on religious activity, e. g. due to Charitable Choice; (3) Indicate the extent to which a church shares desired outcomes or strategies in common with secular funders and other partners; (4) Explore how ‘secular’ programs are rooted in the larger context of the overall religious life of the church, including theology, evangelistic practices, strategies of discipleship, and the connection between worship and service; (5) Diagnose the tension between those who believe in integrating explicit expressions of faith into social ministry, and those who do not.” (8)