Bible on Money
 Research Library
Key Readings
FAQ
Glossary


Other options  



Home > Research Library > The Business of Giving > Planning Gifts > Faith-Based vs. Secular Charities

Faith-Based vs. Secular Charities

Are faith-based charities more effective than secular charities? Should Christians be advocates of government charity? As a Christian, can I give my money to a secular charity? What makes Christian philanthropy Christian? The articles and papers in this section provide helpful research on these vital questions for the Christian charitable giver.


Articles and Papers

Should Christians Only Give to Christian Ministries?
J. Andrew Preslar and Rodney Pitzer. Ministry Watch Reflections (January 2003).
This article seeks to spur new thinking on one of the most vexing questions facing Christians in their ministry of giving. The authors seek to clarify the dilemma by outlining the four main views of social responsibility: noninvolvement (minister to the soul only), qualified involvement (minister to the body only as a means to the end of ministering to the soul), unqualified involvement (minister equally and without reservation to both body and soul), and the “social gospel” view (minister to the body only, little or no need for ministry to the soul). Believing that the third view most accurately reflects Christian belief, the authors answer that, although we should wisely prioritize our giving, we can legitimately donate to a non-Christian organization if it is meeting a real need. Note: No downloadable text or audio is available at this time. However, a similar article is available.

Back to top

Faith Makes a Difference: A Study of the Influence of Faith in Human Service Programs
Beryl Hugen, Fred De Jong and Karen Woods. Acton Institute Policy Forum, no. 6 (Summer 2005).
Calvin College professors Beryl Hugen and Fred De Jong collaborate with Karen Woods, director of the Acton Institute’s Center for Effective Compassion, to argue that faith-based charities are markedly better than government agencies in meeting society’s most pressing needs. The faith element of an organization usually reveals the people they serve as well as the type of help they provide. Historically, faith motivated many relief efforts. The Great Depression and urbanization in the 1930s forced the government to become more financially involved with programs like Social Security. However, today people complain that the “impersonal systems of the government lack lasting changes in people’s lives” due to a “lack of focus on morality, personal responsibility, and faith in government programs and services.” An examination of 564 nongovernmental organizations was taken using the centrality of spirituality, communication of faith to program participants, and faith-related service-delivery practices to measure program faith. The results showed that faith is more transparent in these organizations, that funding source and programmatic faith are linked, and that some populations are more accessible to faith-based programs than others. While faith-based programs are not always the best solution for relief, this report concludes that they are generally better at doing so than government agencies.

Back to top

How Faith-Based and Secular Organizations Tackle Housing for the Homeless
Malcolm L. Goggin and Deborah A. Orth. The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, 2002.
The Bush administration, with its platform of “compassionate conservativism,” has sought to increase government funding for faith-based organizations that provide social services. The question has naturally arisen, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of funding FBOs?” This 80-page report presents a case study of one government agency and six FBOs in Grand Rapids, Mich., which provide housing for the homeless. The research sought to answer, “How do FBOs and government agencies differ in providing services? How role does government funding and level of religious integration play? Which programs were most effective?” The report states that while “there is no standard approach to service delivery that characterizes all FBOs,” clients did perceive the FBOs as being more caring than the government agency—a distinction which makes a “crucial difference.”

Back to top

Heroes of the Half-Measure: Christian Advocates for Government Charity
Jordan Ballor. Acton Commentary, July 6, 2005.
When it comes to relieving the poverty of foreign countries, some Christians have focused their efforts on campaigning for government action. “The irony,” says this author, “is that the entities with perhaps the most assets to spend on poverty relief (governments) are the ones that are least able to do so effectively.” Christian organizations do a better job of addressing poverty because they recognize the spiritual, emotional, social and physical components of the problem. “Secular governments only have the tools to enact part of the solution.” They cannot affect the deep and lasting transformation that true compassion brings. The church must not turn over its responsibility to the government but instead must call its members to even higher accountability and involvement.

Back to top

Equipping the Street Saints: How to Build Capacity with Struggling Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing Lives for the Better
Barbara J. Elliott. Philanthropy (September/October 2002).
The continuing debate over government funding for faith-based organizations has generated a lot of heat and some light, but the most important issue has been neglected: If these groups do uniquely valuable work in lifting up the poor, and if the government can only fund (at most) the secular slivers of their social service programs, then the responsibility for funding the faith in faith-based programs lies squarely in the private sector. Elliot argues that private donors can best equip the street saints by helping these grassroots groups grow into mature organizations that can sustain themselves, regardless of who is in the White House.

Back to top

Biblical Development
Bob Moffitt. Harvest, n.d.
Investing in economic development for the poor is a Christ-like and worthwhile endeavor. It can relieve the suffering of the poor and raise their standard of living in a sustainable, and not just temporary, way. Does it matter, then, whether one invests in a secular or Christian development organization? Bob Moffitt, the founder and president of Harvest, argues that it does. Biblical development, while affirming much of what secular development does, has “a radically different orientation.” It is not based on “man's ability to heal himself,” and it targets the whole person, not merely one’s physical needs. Moffitt examines the goal, standards and resources of Christian development, looking at the role of the local church and the responsibility of all believers in this endeavor.

Back to top

Big Charities Have Lost Their Way
William A. Schambra. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, January 6, 2005.
The author, who directs the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal in Washington, tracks some disquieting trends developing in the nation’s “high-profile” nonprofit charitable organizations. In contrast to smaller nonprofit organizations which grow primarily out of the religious sector, many larger organizations that enjoy the lion’s share of public attention are suffering from a lack motivation and self-identity. Schambra attributes this lack of purpose among large nonprofits to two primary developments. First, these organizations increasingly use for-profit tactics in marketing themselves to donors, resulting in their becoming less and less distinct from their for-profit counterparts. “Another distorting influence has been the nonprofit world’s understanding of its relationship to government.” Because the government has been a substantial contributor to the goals of many large nonprofits, they have come to view public money as an irrevocable right or prerogative. Moreover, this relationship between the government and nonprofit organizations has made these organizations increasingly politically active, diverting resources from charitable work. “Religious groups, on the other hand, have nothing if not a strong sense of purpose. They understand that charity, volunteerism, and immediate community engagement are not romantic atavisms, but essential attributes of spirituality and humane citizenship.” “The vast constellation of nonprofit organizations that have been founded by conservative or orthodox houses of worship” are increasingly more in sync with the public’s traditional view of charity, and they tend to elude the “elaborate professional intermediary apparatus that the nonprofit world has come to view as essential to its business.” Instead, “they generally rely on volunteers to provide services, or perhaps on a few meagerly paid workers.”

Back to top

The World of Philanthropy Is Rapidly Changing
Gordon Loux. The Gordon Loux Co., n.d.
The last decade has seen big changes in charitable giving, one of the most important being the breakdown of the wall between religious and civic organizations. This new partnership between public institutions, private ventures and nonprofit organizations is helping to serve the community in a more holistic way. Givers now have greater opportunities for finding creative solutions to the needs and problems that they see. Even givers who are not particularly religious often choose to work through faith-based organizations because they believe that these organizations will make the most positive impact on the community. This is an exciting time to join in the philanthropic endeavor, says this professional advisor.

Back to top

Are Faith-Based Programs More Effective?
Stephen V. Monsma. Public Justice Report (2nd quarter 2001).
The author argues that social scientists and policy researchers have almost totally ignored faith in researching the effectiveness of social-service programs. Since there are few if any scientific studies in this area, some argue that President Bush’s faith-based and community initiatives should be put on hold until more evidence is in. The author rejects this as nonsense. According to Monsma, there is some direct and much indirect evidence that faith-based agencies are, in fact, more effective in enabling people to overcome persistent social ills.

Back to top

The InnerChange Freedom Initiative: A Preliminary Evaluation of a Faith-Based Prison Program
Byron R. Johnson and David B. Larson. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, 2003.
Reanalyzing data previously compiled and analyzed by the Criminal Justice Policy Council of Texas, this study tracks the two-year post-release recidivism rates for those prisoners that entered the InterChange Freedom Initiative program from 1997 to 1999, and were released from prison prior to September 1, 2000. In addition, this report summarizes the results of an intensive on-site, multi-year field study of IFI, including in-depth interviews with IFI staff and participants. Anchored in biblical teaching, life-skills education, and group accountability, IFI is a three-phase program involving prisoners in 16 to 24 months of in-prison programs and 6 to 12 months of aftercare following release from prison. In this ambitious correctional experiment, IFI is responsible for implementing, administering and funding inmate programs, while the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is responsible for housing and security matters. Both groups are testing the proposition that by intentionally working together they will be able to achieve the civic purpose of recidivism reduction and thereby increase public safety.

Back to top

Churches, Charity and Children: How Religious Organizations Are Reaching America’s At-Risk Kids
Joseph Loconte and Lia Fantuzzo. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, 2002.
This report raises many important questions related to the contentious debate surrounding public support for social services delivered by faith-based organizations—and then answers these questions based on insightful interview data. Do faith-based organizations lose their religious identity and mission when they partner with government or other secular providers to achieve civic goals? Do these public and private partnerships violate the First Amendment? Do faith-based organizations force religion or religious beliefs on recipients of various social services? According to the authors, the answer is an emphatic “no.” Indeed, they conclude: “Faith-based organizations can work closely with government and still respect church-state boundaries, protect the rights of the people they serve, and preserve their own religious identity.” This research confirms what anyone who spends any significant amount of time observing faith-based organizations already knows, namely: (1) Religious organizations serve important civic purposes. (2) Religious approaches meet needs in the lives of youth by building relationships of trust and love. (3) Many faith-based organizations consider faith to be central to their effectiveness. (4) Religious organizations are careful to respect the beliefs of youth and their families.

Back to top

What Works: Comparing the Effectiveness of Welfare-to-Work Programs in Los Angeles
Stephen V. Monsma and J. Christopher Soper. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, 2003.
In 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the Equal Protection of the Laws for Faith-Based and Community Organizations, an executive order designed to enable faith-based and community groups to compete on a level playing field for government money to provide public services. While many anecdotal stories boast of the effectiveness of particular programs, what is largely missing from the debate are studies that systematically test how successful different program types are at providing social services. This study explores that question by comparing the effectiveness of five different types of welfare-to-work programs in urban Los Angeles: (1) government run, (2) for-profit, (3) nonprofit/secular, (4) and (5) two types of faith-based programs, segmented and integrated.

Back to top

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Charities: All Faith-Based Organizations Are Not Created Equal
Amy Sherman. Philanthropy, March/April 2002.
With all the recent hoopla over religious charities, one would think that those who advocate faith-based solutions would be quite pleased. After all, many donors and program officers (not to mention presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush) are starting to come around to what we have been saying for years—that faith-based charities are uncommonly skilled at remedying many of our nation’s social ills. These groups are solving problems—curing drug users and alcoholics of their addictions, reducing teen pregnancy rates, helping the unemployed find and keep decent jobs, and rescuing kids from gangs—with effectiveness rates in some cases much higher than their secular counterparts. But what is a faith-based charity? Such organizations vary tremendously in mission and structure, and some are faith-based in name only. Yet, through much research and study, Sherman has found that effective faith-based ministries share seven basic characteristics.

Back to top

What’s the Real Answer? Overcoming Addiction
Chuck Colson. Connection Magazine, August 1998.
In this article dealing with effective drug rehab programs, Chuck Colson reminds us that faith-based programs do the best job at getting users to turn away from their addictive habits. Despite the sad lack of literature on why faith-based programs are more effective, Colson points us in the right direction: “Why does faith make such a difference? It’s because the church understands why people use drugs, and what—or rather, Who—can fill the void.”

Back to top

Hush-Hush—What Makes Christian Philanthropy Christian?
Bob Jones IV. World Magazine, October 26, 1996.
Surely it means more than simply a sanctified hand writing a check to some well-intentioned cause. While precise numbers on charitable giving by wealthy Christians are hard to come by—“these people aren't out for publicity," says one scholar—there is evidence that evangelism and Christian worldview is not the high priority it ought to be.

Back to top

Is It Scriptural to Give Portions of My Tithe to Secular Organizations?
Larry Burkett. Crown Financial Ministries Q&A Database.
Larry Burkett briefly discusses how the tithe and secular causes do or don't mix.

Back to top

Giving to Christian Organizations
Larry Burkett. Crown Financial Ministries.
Because of emotional appeals or skilled manipulation, many well-meaning Christians get pressured into giving to groups they know little or nothing about. Fund-raising has become a highly organized and highly profitable business that employs the latest motivational techniques and Madison Avenue advertising. Even many otherwise sound Christian ministries have turned to secular advertising and fund-raising companies to meet their growing demand for funds. Each Christian must ask some fundamental questions before issuing even one dime of the Lord’s money.

Back to top

Where Should Christians Give?
Gary D. Latainer. Counsel & Capital, June 2001.

Most discussions of Christian giving focus on how much believers ought to give. But just as important is the question of where they ought to give. In fact, many Christians give as much or more to secular organizations as they do to Christian ministries. In this paper, the author makes an argument from scripture that Christians should not give to secular organizations, but should limit their giving to Christian ministries. The only cause to which Christians should give, Latainer believes, is the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, and only Christian ministries pursue this end.

Back to top

Help Desk

More on This Topic

  • FAQ



    Related Topics

  • Faith and Philanthropy
  • Funding the Great
             Commission
  • Government
             Subsidies








































  • Home
    | About Us | FAQ | Store | Stories & Testimonies | Translate

    Copyright © 2000-2009, Generous Giving. All rights reserved.
    This material may not be reproduced without written permission.