Churches important producers of social capital
The French nobleman and author Alexis De Tocqueville noticed back in the 1830s that democracy worked in America due to the propensity of Americans to develop civic associations, with churches being foremost of these associations.
These associations and the volunteerism that came with them build what has been called social capital.
You can think of social capital as the benefits that accrue to all from the actions of many different groups.Specifically, when groups join together and respond to a social need, be it building a community built park, or the actions of many churches involved in outreach and mission, a benefit is provided to civic life, one that does not require government oversight or cost.
Obviously, then, churches and volunteer organizations are important producers of social capital.
One well known researcher of social capital, Robert Putnam, found that wealth can come from healthy social capital. This concept relates well to sociologist Max Weber’s observation that American productivity arose from what he called the Protestant work ethic.
Combining both concepts further supports the idea that the wealth of America is a result of both the civic participation and volunteerism (much of which, but not all, is found in churches), and the work ethic fostered and supported by churches. Research also links a healthy democracy with volunteerism, civic involvement, and produced social capital.
In an era of decreased community involvement and decreased financial giving to churches and non-profit organizations (as reported by the Barna Group), be assured that your actions of compassion, volunteerism and financial support of our ministries is not only good for the soul but it is good for the nation as well, helping keep American democracy healthy.