Finding congregations: Developing conceptual clarity in the study of faith-based social services

Charlene C. McGrew, Ram A. Cnaan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The need to assess the effectiveness of faith-based social interventions is pressing. On the one hand, politicians and pundits claim that faith-based organizations are impressively successful and inexpensive. On the other hand, critics claim that faith-based organizations lack the capacity to carry out social services. However, rigorously-collected empirical data is just beginning to appear and is still in short supply, particularly congregations. in this paper, we discuss some critical methodological and conceptual problems that arise from years of academic neglect of faith-based social service provision. We demonstrate how our attempt to create a comprehensive account of congregation-based social services in Philadelphia necessitated defining even such basic terms as “congregation” and devising novel methods for identifying and gathering information from congregations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFaith-Based Social Services
Subtitle of host publicationMeasures, Assessments, and Effectiveness
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780203726259
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2006 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.


  • Faith-based interventions
  • Faith-based social services
  • Faithbased organizations
  • Program effectiveness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Health Professions


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