Our findings in this study strongly support the Supreme Court's view of congregations as "a beneficial and stabilizing influence in community life." In fact, our findings provide an even broader perspective on social and community services provision by providing one of the first assessments of the dollar value of these services.
The net value of congregational, social, and community services averaged $15,307 per month, or approximately $184,000 per congregation per year. This contribution is, for the most part, in the form of volunteer hours and other non-cash support. The magnitude of this congregational contribution to social services can best be appreciated by comparing it to costs incurred by secular providers who must pay for the types of in-kind support that congregations voluntarily provide at no cash cost.
These findings underscore the merit of the tax-exempt status of congregations. Although congregations can be viewed as being publicly subsidized because of their tax-exempt status, the value of their services to their communities exceeds the value of the tax exemption. There is also the value of services that cannot be measured in dollars, such as informal help, pastoral counseling, value instruction, residents' representation, and community pride.
The economic value of the congregational contribution to the quality of life in America is staggering. As a key part of the nation's social safety net and the first to aid in time of local, national, and international emergencies, congregations allot a significant percentage of their budgets to helping others and are the major source for volunteer recruitment in urban America. In fact, one could say that our society is subsidized by congregations to a far greater extent ...1