Abstract

The connection between church membership, church activism, and volunteering is explored using a three-wave panel study of young adults. Volunteering to help others solve community problems is more likely among members of churches that emphasize this-worldly social concerns, especially among those socially involved in these churches. Among Catholics, the connection between church involvement and volunteering is formed early and remains strong. Among liberal Protestants, the connection is made only in middle age. Among moderate and conservative Protestants there is little connection at all. Conservative Protestants who attend church regularly are less likely to be involved in secular volunteering and more likely to be involved in volunteering for church-related work. The results suggest caution in generalizing about the connection between religious preference or involvement, and volunteering because this connection depends on the theological interpretation of volunteering and the significance attached to frequent church attendance.

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