Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

January 2004


Social welfare is traditionally discussed as a mixture of public, private, communal, and familial enterprise. Indeed, most textbooks and programs focus on the changing balance between these four circles of care. In the United States, a fifth and recently prominent circle of care exists and plays a major role, namely congregation-based social service provision. In this article, we first explain why faith-based care is so paramount in the United States, including a short discussion about the political developments in faith-based efforts. We then show the scope of congregational involvement in social service provision based on a large study of congregations. The rest of the article is dedicated to key administrative challenges regarding this mode of social service provision with a focus on their capacity, cultural characteristics, and organizational behavior. The latter topic is divided between start-up of new projects by congregations and issues related to running social programs in congregational settings. We conclude with a summary and discussion about the place of congregations as social service providers in the American welfare arena.


Copyright Haworth Press. Reprinted from Administration in Social Work, Volume 28, Issue 3/4, 2004, pages 47-68.
The authors assert their right to include this material in the ScholarlyCommons@Penn.


Congregations, faith-based social services, administrative challenges, alternative social services delivery, welfare-mix



Date Posted: 22 November 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.