Religious Congregations and Poverty Alleviation in the Age of New Public Governance

Marquisha Lawrence Scott, Ram A. Cnaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We discuss the implications of the new public governance and its impact on the social and economic outcomes of those experiencing poverty. As members of civil society, religious congregations are actively engaged in supporting people living in poverty with short-term responses. Addressing the societal focus on economic justice and the theological traditions of four world religions, this paper seeks to encourage religious congregations into innovative, actionable responses that help to offer long-term responses that align with poverty alleviation. We propose two approaches-community development and financial development-that serve as models for religious congregations interested in alleviating poverty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-410
Number of pages20
JournalNonprofit Policy Forum
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
An example of a congregational social enterprise is ‘The Everyday Café’ a coffee shop established by Bible Center Church, in Homewood, Pennsylvania—the poorest neighborhood in Pittsburgh. On November 18th, 2016, ‘the Everyday Café’ opened. The café offers the delicacies of posh coffee shops paired with breakfast and lunch options. Additionally, the cafe provides a community meeting place with free Internet service. As Pittsburgh’s first cashless café, it only accepts electronic payments to reduce robbery and crime. The employees are neighborhood youth who gain work skills and work history, as well as college and university students looking for financial opportunities during vacations. While this endeavor seems out of reach for most congregations, it is achievable through private funding. The church was awarded financial support from local foundations to pay for start-up costs. Any profits made from the café are planned to finance after-school services run by the church. In addition to bringing a new enterprise to the neighborhood, the café brought innovation, crime reduction, and financial opportunity.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Scott and Cnaan, published by De Gruyter.


  • civil society
  • new public governance
  • poverty alleviation
  • religious congregations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Administration


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