Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2020 Volume 16 :: Article 6
2020 Volume 16, Article 6
When Spiritual and Material Meet: Explaining Congregational Engagement in the Local Community

Author: Rebecca A. Glazier (University of Arkansas at Little Rock), Emilie Street (Clinton School of Public Service)

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Places of worship are often vital local institutions, providing needed social services and engaging in the community. Yet, there is much we do not know about why certain congregations are more involved in the community than others. This article looks beyond mission orientation to more deeply examine how theology motivates engagement. Using a multi-method approach, we examine clergy survey data and interview data (n=64) from a single city in the Southern United States to provide an in-depth look at congregational community engagement. Through t-tests, regression analysis, and qualitative analysis, we find that when spiritual and material concerns are theologically linked, congregations are significantly more likely to be engaged in the community. This result holds even when other influences on community engagement are taken into account through a regression model. These findings challenge current distinctions in the literature and emphasize the theological importance of community engagement for some congregations.

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