Though many churches regularly engage in one or multiple forms of community service, not many Americans seem to be aware of those good works, according to a study released on Thursday.
The LifeWay Research study found that among 1,000 Americans, 60 percent have heard of churches “feeding the hungry,” and half have heard of churches “clothing the poor,” but not many have heard of churches engaging in the 11 other service acts that were listed in the survey.
For instance, 39 percent knew of churches that help disaster victims, and 33 percent knew of churches sheltering the homeless.
Even less knew of churches that meet with people in prison (25 percent), offer after-school programs (24 percent), support local schools (21 percent), provide aid for new mothers (19 percent), offer tutoring (16 percent), teach English to immigrants (13 percent), teach job skills (13 percent), or volunteer to provide foster care (12 percent).
The least known service that churches offer was providing tax preparation (8 percent).
Meanwhile, some haven’t heard of any of these services (14 percent), while some weren’t sure if they had heard of them before (17 percent).
“Unless you’ve received help from a church — or been involved in serving others — these kinds of programs may fly under the radar,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
In contrast, those who attend church more regularly were much more likely to have heard of these programs.
For instance, 79 percent of those who attend church at least once a month have heard of churches that feed the hungry, and 72 percent have heard of churches clothing the poor. More than half (58 percent) have heard of churches offering disaster relief aid, and almost half (48 percent) have heard of churches that meet with people in prison.
McConnell noted that perhaps the lack of awareness of churches’ service projects may cause members in the community to “miss out” on opportunities.
“People who need help may be missing out,” he said. “And Americans who want to lend a hand might miss the chance to help out and along the way connect with the church.”