Volunteering is one more way parishioners support their church


Besides putting their money in the collection plate, churchgoers put in their time as nursery workers, choir members, Sunday School teachers, and more. The value of those volunteer efforts represents more than a third of what church members give in cash, according to a new study of nearly 11,000 Christians in 625 congregations.

The study found that Southern Baptists and Assemblies of God members are among the top givers, both of time and money. In contrast, Catholics give relatively little time or money.

“The encouragement, care and feeding of volunteers is important to churches today, and churches need to give volunteers as much attention as they now give to encouraging financial contributions,” wrote the researchers, including Michael J. Donahue of the Minneapolis-based Search Institute, Dean Hoge of Catholic University of America, Patrick McNamara of the University of New Mexico and Charles Zech of Villanova University.

Researchers examined churches in five denominations – Assemblies of God, Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and Southern Baptist Convention, and assumed a value of $9.60 per hour for volunteer work.

Southern Baptists gave an average of 3.4 hours a month to volunteer church activities, for an estimated in-kind contribution of $683 per year for each household — 36 percent of the $1,920 in cash donations reported by an average household.

Assemblies of God members came next, volunteering 3.2 hours per month, or a quarter of their reported contributions of $2,548 per year.

Presbyterians and Lutherans each reported donating an average of 2.7 hours per month, an in-kind contribution equivalent to 42 percent of annual cash contributions for Lutherans ($1,294) and 34 percent of average cash contributions for Presbyterians ($1,516).

Catholics in the study contributed an average of 1.6 hours of service per month, an in-kind contribution equal to about 36 percent of the average annual cash contribution of $833.

Attendance at church services and participation in church activities were the strongest predictors of church volunteerism. “Probably the motivations behind attendance, participation and volunteering are closely related, and the motivations include the gratification of spending time with fellow church members and doing meaningful tasks together with them,” the researchers concluded.

— E.P. News

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