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NCC's Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches
reports churches are heavily invested in your health

New York, February 15, 2008 – With 47 million Americans having no health insurance, including nine million children, it's little wonder churches would feel a need to help pick up the slack.

An article in the National Council of Churches 2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, published today, reports on a groundbreaking survey of churches that suggests nearly three-quarters of the nation's churches provide direct health services for their members or others in their communities.

The venerable yearbook, widely regarded as the most reliable source of church membership and growth trends since its beginning in 1916, is also reporting this year on the membership statistics, leadership and histories of 224 national church bodies.

The article, entitled, "When Did We See Thee Sick? Congregations Respond," was written by the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, editor of the Yearbook and supervisor of the survey of more than 6,000 American congregations.

The Congregational Health Ministry Survey, conducted by the NCC with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows that a majority of churches are ministering to their communities by providing health care ministries. As the number of uninsured Americans grows, congregations are supplying health education and direct health care services. Many are advocating on behalf of public policy issues related to health care.  

According to the survey, about 70 percent of responding churches provide direct health services, with 65 percent offering health education programs within their community. The survey defines direct services as provision of medical care to individuals by trained health care professionals.  

“It is not surprising to find that churches see health care as a part of their faith mission and mandate,” says Lindner. “The results of this survey confirm a higher energy for health care than we might have thought, however, and show that effective health care ministries are being developed by congregations of all sizes to meet the urgent needs of their communities.” 

The survey reported in the Yearbook found that:

  • Reporting congregations each have an average of 13.07 health-related activities. The sample of 6,037 responding congregations reported a staggering total of 78,907 health ministry programs.

  • Nearly 300 African American congregations responded to the survey, reporting the same creativity and variety of health care ministries as the total sample.

  • Most reporting congregations provided health care ministries to members and non-members alike.

  • The results indicate that 51 percent of responding congregations offer direct financial support to individuals who need help paying their medical bills.

  • Public policy advocacy was provided by 35 percent of the reporting congregations. Advocacy takes the form of preaching, group discussions, voter education, communication with government officials and health care providers, and other activities.

  • Direct services reported include counseling, 12-Step Programs, emergency medical funding, mental health counseling, and even the professional support of a parish nurse or health minister.

  • Education programs include providing information on the prevention of disease, maintaining the health of senior citizens, medical programs, and ways to overcome diseases ranging from obesity to HIV/AIDS.

“Local congregations are demonstrating that the volume and scope of health care needs are enormous. They have shown an incredible ability to leverage health care services in extremely creative, innovative and cost-effective ways,” said Dr. Lindner. “They know their communities and they respond to their specific needs.” 

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228,
Order the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches at


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