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Where would Americans be if churches didn’t make outreach a priority? Many would feel the pain of unmet needs for basics such as food and clothing, not to mention a slow-down in disaster recovery efforts. For many hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, it was churches that provided the first signs of relief. In fact, a new survey —Outlook for Outreach — shows that of the 58% of churches in America that provide hands-on assistance for causes throughout our country, 75% of them engage in national disaster relief efforts. To better quantify how churches engage in outreach ministries to provide for physical needs within their local communities and the world at large, Christianity Today (CT) and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company (BMIC) recently conducted the joint nationalOutlook for Outreach study. Responses collected during the summer of 2012 from 1,486 church leaders and volunteers involved in outreach reveal that nearly all churches (96%) are serving those in their local community, especially in feeding and clothing the poor. Results show that churches meet — and even exceed — the need for food and clothing at the local level, however, they’re providing less hands-on assistance in addressing unemployment and preventing crime and gang-related violence than the perceived need. Along with providing disaster relief, more than half of the churches send teams on in-country mission trips (54%) and are engaged in housing construction projects. Churches are involved in international outreach efforts (70%). Fully 60% of them fund building projects overseas, including homes, churches, schools, medical clinics, and orphanages, and 53% travel abroad to physically assist with the construction work. Nine in ten churches allow other organizations to use their facility for outreach programs, so churches are opening their doors for others to serve too. The survey also shows that churches are taking care to select suitable volunteers and provide adequate training before doing hands-on ministry. “Churches engage in all kinds of outreach efforts,” says Dave Lantz, vice president, claims, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. “Church leaders need to be aware of the risks associated with outreach and recognize the importance of managing those risks. It’s encouraging that many are already taking steps to minimize them.” The majority of churches say that finding enough funding and volunteers are the two biggest obstacles to doing outreach locally, nationally, and internationally. At the same time, 41% of churches report that volunteerism is up for outreach ministries, and nearly half (45%) expect their church budget for outreach to increase in the coming year. According to 62% of respondents, the number one result of serving others is a sense of maturing discipleship among those involved. Another added benefit: more than one-third (35%) of the respondents say that more previously unchurched people now attend their church as a result of their outreach efforts. “Outreach and compassion are important hallmarks of church life,” said Marshall Shelley, editorial vice president of Christianity Today. “The results of this study show the high percentage of churches and church members that are involved in serving their neighbors locally, nationally, and internationally. If faith must be exercised to remain healthy, then most churches see outreach as the fitness center for faith.” An executive summary of the survey findings is available onYourChurchResources.com and at BrotherhoodMutual.com. What is YOUR church determined to do in 2013 that you’ve never done before?
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A Pew Research Center survey showed Americans switch religions often. Here are just a few famous people known to convert their beliefs more than once. According to the survey:  Americans change religious affiliation early and often. In total, about half of American adults have changed religious affiliation at least once during their lives. Most people who change their religion leave their childhood faith before age 24, and many of those who change religion do so more than once. These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. The survey documents the fluidity of religious affiliation in the U.S. and describes in detail the patterns and reasons for change. The reasons people give for changing their religion – or leaving religion altogether – differ widely depending on the origin and destination of the convert. The group that has grown the most in recent years due to religious change is the unaffiliated population. Two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated and half of former Protestants who have become unaffiliated say they left their childhood faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, and roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions.1 Additionally, many people who left a religion to become unaffiliated say they did so in part because they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money. Far fewer say they became unaffiliated because they believe that modern science proves that religion is just superstition. Catholicism has suffered the greatest net loss in the process of religious change. Many people who leave the Catholic Church do so for religious reasons; two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated say they left the Catholic faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, as do half of former Catholics who are now Protestant. Fewer than three-in-ten former Catholics, however, say the clergy sexual abuse scandal factored into their decision to leave Catholicism. Read more here… Also for a slideshow of some more infamous people who have changed their religion repeatedly, check this out… Todd
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