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53% of Churches Support Outside Education Programs

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WASHINGTON--Slightly more than half of American religious congregations operate or support education activities outside of religious education, and almost three-quarters maintain youth groups or youth-recreation programs, according to a survey released here last week.

The survey of church-based services and church support of outside community programs was issued by Independent Sector, a coalition of some 800 foundations, corporate-giving programs, and nonprofit groups.

In addition to religious ministry and religious education, congregations reported involvement in human services (92 percent), health (90 percent), international concerns (74 percent), civil rights and social justice (62 percent), educational programs (53 percent), and arts and culture (50 percent), according to the survey of more than 700 religious organizations.

Among churches involved in general education activities, 30 percent ran programs within their own congregations, 4.6 percent had separately incorporated programs, and 38.5 percent supported outside programs.

The most popular type of education activities were adult-literacy programs, offered by 35 percent of congregations. Elementary education programs were offered by 27.2 percent of congregations, while 25.6 percent were involved with higher education, and 22.3 percent offered secondary education programs.

$6.6 Billion in Outside Giving

The survey also found that:

  • Religious congregations contributed an estimated $6.6 billion to other organizations and individuals in 1991, of which 70 percent was given to organizations within the denomination, 20 percent to external charitable groups, and 10 percent in direct assistance to individuals.
  • Larger congregations were more likely than smaller congregations to be involved in education activities.
  • Human-service programs run by congregations included marriage counseling (61 percent), family counseling (45 percent), recreation and camp programs (32 percent), programs for single adults (32 percent), food programs (16 percent), day care and preschool (12 percent), and after-school programs (12 percent).
  • Suburban and big-city congregations were more likely to offer day care or after-school programs than small-city or rural congregations.
  • Tutoring and literacy programs were most likely to be offered in large cities and least likely in rural areas.

Copies of "From Belief to Commitment: The Community Service Activities and Finances of Religious Congregations in the United States'' are available for $27.50 each from Independent Sector, 1828 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 223-8100.

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