Saving Souls, Serving Society: Understanding the Faith Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry / Edition 1

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Overview

Recent years have seen unprecedented attention to faith-based institutions as agents of social change, spurred in part by cuts in public funding for social services and accompanied by controversy about the separation of church and state. The debate over faith-based initiatives has highlighted a small but growing segment of churches committed to both saving souls and serving society. What distinguishes faith-based from secular activism? How do religious organizations express their religious identity in the context of social services? How do faith-based service providers interpret the connection between spiritual methodologies and socioeconomic outcomes? How does faith motivate and give meaning to social ministry? Drawing on case studies of fifteen Philadelphia-area Protestant churches with active outreach, Saving Souls, Serving Society seeks to answer these and other pressing questions surrounding the religious dynamics of social ministry. While church-based programs often look similar to secular ones in terms of goods or services rendered, they may show significant differences in terms of motivations, desired outcomes, and interpretations of meaning. Church-based programs also differ from one another in terms of how they relate evangelism to their social outreach agenda. Heidi Rolland Unruh and Ronald J. Sider explore how churches navigate the tension between their spiritual mission and the constraints on evangelism in the context of social services. The authors examine the potential contribution of religious dynamics to social outcomes as well as the relationship between mission orientations and social capital. Unruh and Sider introduce a new vocabulary for describing the religious components and spiritual meanings embedded in social action, and provide a typology of faith-based organizations and programs. Their analysis yields a framework for Protestant mission orientations that makes room for the diverse ways that churches interrelate spiritual witness and social compassion. Based on their observations, the authors offer a constructive approach to church-state partnerships and provide a far more objective understanding of faith-based social services than previously available.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Whereas most scholars focus on the social service side of faith-based social services, Unruh and Sider integrate the faith factor and evangelism in understanding congregational social services. They convincingly demonstrate that one cannot understand faith-based social services without understanding its faith dimensions. This is a most innovative and groundbreaking book that is a must for all those concerned with the faith-based initiative and congregational studies."—Ram A. Cnaan, author of The Invisible Caring Hand: American Congregations and the Provision of Welfare

"Heidi Unruh and Ronald Sider explore and map a social ministry landscape that is more complex— and more interesting—than many realize. If you are confused by debates over faith-based initiatives, if you yearn for more than superficial stereotypes of church-based social services, or if you simply want to know all the varieties of social ministry present within American Christianity, you will find this book clarifying, richly subtle, and immensely informative."—Mark Chaves, author of Congregations in America

"Few books manage to combine the intelligence, clarity, insight, and lively writing found between these covers. An invaluable resource for a complex and contentious public debate. This important book is likely to become an instant classic in the field of religion and public life."—Robert M. Franklin, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics, Emory University

"Faith-based organizations do a lot of good in society-that much we already know. What Unruh and Sider tell us is why and how. Knowing that the answer is not a simple one will surely help policy-makers choose more wisely. Knowing that the answer doesn't fall neatly into liberal v conservative boxes will surely enlarge the imaginations of religious leaders and social scientists alike. All of them should read this book."—Nancy Ammerman, author of Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and their Partners

"Whereas most scholars focus on the social service side of faith-based social services, Unruh and Sider integrate the faith factor and evangelism in understanding congregational social services. They convincingly demonstrate that one cannot understand faith-based social services without understanding its faith dimensions. This is a most innovative and groundbreaking book that is a must for all those concerned with the faith-based initiative and congregational studies."—Ram A. Cnaan, author of The Invisible Caring Hand: American Congregations and the Provision of Welfare

"Few books manage to combine the intelligence, clarity, insight, and lively writing found between these covers. An invaluable resource for a complex and contentious public debate. This important book is likely to become an instant classic in the field of religion and public life."—Robert M. Franklin, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics, Emory University

"Heidi Unruh and Ronald Sider explore and map a social ministry landscape that is more complex and more interesting—than many realize. If you are confused by debates over faith-base initiatives, if you yearn for more than superficial stereotypes of church-based social services, or if you simply want to know all the varieties of social ministry present within American Christianity, you will find this book clarifying, richly subtle, and immensely informative."—Mark Chaves, author of Congregations in America

"Faith-based organizations do a lot of good in society-that much we already know. What Unruh and Sider tell us is why and how. Knowing that the answer is not a simple one will surely help policy-makers choose more wisely. Knowing that the answer doesn't fall neatly into liberal v conservative boxes will surely enlarge the imaginations of religious leaders and social scientists alike. All of them should read this book."—Nancy Ammerman, author of Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and their Partners

"Unruh and Sider studied fifteen churches and masterfully developed and explained a theoretical framework for understanding the complex dimensions of service emanating from them... They are right on the mark in capturing a broad range of complexities involved in blending human service analysis with evangelism."—Sociology of Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195161557
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/6/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Heidi Rolland Unruh is Associate Director of the Congregations, Community Outreach, and Leadership Development Project. She lives in Hutchinson, Kansas. Ronald J. Sider is Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, PA. He is also Director of the Congregations, Community Outreach, and Leadership Development Project. Together they are the authors of Churches That Make A Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works (2002).

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