The results of a study released by the Barna Group last week, show that a majority of Americans believe that the presence of a church is “very” (53%) or “somewhat” (25%) positive for their community. By contrast, only 5 percent of Americans believe that the church has either a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impact on their community.
Along with finding out general feelings about the value of the church, the research also attempted to discover the ways that individuals believed that churches could be meeting needs, and contributing in a positive way in their local communities. Those interviewed were asked, “Many churches and faith leaders want to contribute positively to the common good of their community. What does your community need, if anything, that you feel churches could provide?”
- Twenty-one percent were not able to give a single response as to how churches could contribute positively to their communities.
- Among those who had not attended a church for at least six months, one-third were not certain how a local church could be beneficial.
- Twenty-nine percent said churches can positively influence their communities by addressing poverty and helping the poor.
- Ten percent believe churches should assist those in recovery by providing counseling and support groups.
- Seven percent said churches can assist in terms of financial, career-related or other educational ways—such as helping the unemployed get jobs, giving financial assistance, providing financial counseling, and offering literacy classes.
- Ministry activities such as teaching the Bible, giving spiritual direction, serving youth and the elderly, and cultivating Biblical values were also mentioned as ways the church can have a positive impact on a community.
- Even the unchurched believe churches are an important element of a community.
- Most Americans who have no religious affiliation or belief are not overtly hostile to churches. They are basically indifferent to the church.
- Other than addressing poverty, most Americans do not connect the role of the church to civic affairs such as public education, adoption or foster care.
- Helping individuals find their way to God through Christ is seldom seen as a way to serve the local community.