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Faith-Based Social Services: Saving the Body or the Soul? A Research Note

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Abstract:

Faith-based organizations might be ideal social service providers, claiming to transform clients’ lives with holistic support while meeting immediate needs. While organizations have such goals, their success is impacted by constituencies with differing goals for the organization. Clients with goals not commensurate with an organization's may compromise its ability to attain its goals. Three questions are examined here: What are the goals of faith-based service providers? When asked what they think about the services, do clients share the organizational goals? Are organizations likely to meet either set of goals? Homeless persons patronizing faith-based soup kitchens were interviewed; service activities of organizations were observed. Clients’ goals focused on survival in their current situation. Organizations’ goals ranged from meeting clients’ immediate needs to transforming clients through spiritual restoration. Congregations studied met clients’ immediate needs. However, clients’ accommodational goals were potentially problematic for organizations with spiritual goals.

Keywords: faith-based; homeless; organizational goals; social services

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01560.x

Affiliations: Department of SociologyLoyola Marymount University

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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