Most churchgoers support volunteering, fewer actually serve: Lifeway survey

Roberto Machado Noa/Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/Getty Images

A gap exists between churchgoers who say they want to take part in a charity effort and those who actually do so, according to a new report by Lifeway Christian Resources.

In a report published Tuesday, Lifeway found that 86% of surveyed churchgoers said they want to serve people, including those outside of the church, in order to advance the Gospel.

However, the report also revealed that 66% of respondents admitted to not having volunteered for a charity, whether affiliated with or separate from their church, in the past year.

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Of those surveyed, 30% said that they had volunteered in the past year, while 4% were not sure. As a comparison, Lifeway cited a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, which found that 23% of the general U.S. population volunteered with an organization between September 2020 and September 2021.

Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway, explained in a statement included in the report that their survey only focused on volunteering through a group, and not individual actions.

“This study did not measure service churchgoers may have done individually for their neighbors. Meeting such needs as they arise is a great form of service,” he said. 

“But some of the most widespread needs in communities require volunteers working together, something that the majority of churchgoers don’t do over the course of a year.”

Lifeway drew its data from a survey of 1,002 American Protestant churchgoers conducted Sept. 19-29, 2022, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3%.

The research also found that 91% of churchgoers between the ages of 18-49 reported a desire to serve people not affiliated with their church, compared to 79% of those older than 65. However, 40% of respondents over 65 told pollsters that they participated in volunteer work in the past year, making them the most likely group to do so. 

Additionally, those who attend a worship service one to three times a month were more likely to not have volunteered in the past year than those who attend four or more times a month (73% vs. 60%) and respondents with Evangelical beliefs were more likely to have volunteered in the past year than those who did not hold Evangelical beliefs (37% vs. 25%).

Among Christian religious groups, Lutherans were the most likely to have reported volunteering with a group in the past year (53%), followed by Baptists (29%), Church of Christ members and those affiliated with non-denominational churches (both at 28%) and Methodists (7%).

According to a report from the American Bible Society released last November, American Christians who are heavily engaged with Scripture gave approximately $145 billion to charity in 2021.  

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