Academic journal article Social Work

Social Work with Religious Volunteers: Activating and Sustaining Community Involvement

Academic journal article Social Work

Social Work with Religious Volunteers: Activating and Sustaining Community Involvement

Article excerpt

Even as the call for volunteer involvement in many arenas of community service is increasing (Grube & Piliavin, 2000), research studies report a decline in volunteerism among those long known for their service: older women (Gallagher, 1994; Phillips, Little, & Goodine, 2002), long-term service volunteers (Macduff, 2004), and retirees (Caro & Bass, 1997). Social work administrators have difficulty attracting sufficient volunteers for caseloads that include people who are marginalized, such as intravenous drug users and people with chronic mental illness (Marx, 1999). In the face of this decline in volunteerism, religious congregations continue to incubate and offer significant volunteer resources to their communities (Chaves, Konieczny, Beyerlein, & Barman, 1999). Social workers have a growing body of research that describes the extent of involvement of congregations in social service provision (Cnaan, Wineburg, & Boddie, 1999; Wineburg, 2001). Few studies help social workers understand the motivations of congregation volunteers and the challenges of working with them, however. Consequently, social workers have little guidance for effectively engaging, rewarding, and sustaining this major segment within the shrinking volunteer pool.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Congregation attendance is the best general predictor of involvement in volunteer service (Gerard, 1985; Greeley, 1997; Hoge, Zech, McNamara, & Donahue, 1996; L. D. Nelson & Dynes, 1976; Park & Smith, 2000; Smith, 2004; Wuthnow, 1995). Despite the common assumption that theologically conservative congregations are less concerned with social action and social programs than are theologically liberal congregations, Mock (1992) found no evidence of a direct relationship between congregations' theological conservatism or liberalism and their community service and social activism; all the Christian congregations he studied had a theological rationale for community involvement. Furthermore, whether theologically conservative or liberal, congregations' service programs target community members as recipients more often than their own congregants; they are not just taking care of their own (Boddie, Cnaan, & Dilulio, 2001).

Congregations often work collaboratively, sending their members as volunteers to serve through community organizations and service coalitions. Chaves examined three common program types offered by congregations--food, housing, and homeless services--and found that only a minority (12 percent) of congregations administer their own programs in these areas. Typically, congregations support programs and activities operated by other social services organizations (Chaves, 1999).

When compared with nonvolunteers, volunteers are more likely to be more highly educated (Chambre, 1984), to have higher incomes (Gronbjerg & Never, 2002; Park & Smith, 2000), to be working part-time (although retirement is not related to volunteering) (Gronbjerg & Never, 2002; Park & Smith, 2000), and to be married (Uslaner, 2002). Variables significantly associated with the decision to volunteer include previous volunteer experience (Caro & Bass, 1997; Chambre, 1987; Dye, Goodman, Roth, Bley, & Jensen, 1973); a religious identity passed on from parents (Park & Smith, 2000); more reflective disposition, less concern with material aspects of life, and greater need for contemplation and prayer (Gerard, 1985); better health and a greater preference for active pursuits rather than spending long periods of time watching television (Gerard, 1985); an attitude of forgiveness (Wuthnow, 2000); and simply being invited to volunteer (Bowman, 2004; Park & Smith, 2000; Roehlkepartain, Naftali, & Musegades, 2000). In addition, several factors appear to sustain volunteer involvement, including being connected with other volunteers (Cnaan, Boddie, Handy, Yancey, & Schneider, 2002; M. C. Nelson, 1999), receiving multiple forms of social support for the volunteer activity (Ashcraft & Kedrowicz, 2002), and having the opportunity to develop genuine relationships with service recipients (Lawrence, 2000). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.