Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This thesis was inspired by one family’s need for support and how it came to be expressed and negotiated within their faith community. The purpose of this study was to survey English-speaking, Christian congregations across Canada in order to discover the range of tangible social supports available to congregants. Tangible supports were defined as practical (i.e. acts of service), material, and social/emotional support. An important component in this study was to identify strengths and gaps in the development and mobilization of congregational supports, as expressed by church leaders. Another important aspect included the exploration of church leaders’ and their congregations’ theological beliefs about the church’s role in providing these supports to congregants. Participants (n = 206) included men and women aged 20 and older, from 10 provinces and two territories. All participants occupied positions of leadership or administration in their respective congregations, and represented 27 Christian denominations. A mixed method approach combined closed- and open-ended questions in a 61-item survey about practical, material and social/emotional church ministries, potential strengths and gaps in these ministries, and related doctrinal beliefs. Participants reported a wide range of tangible supports offered by and for their own congregants. Four overarching themes emerged from the qualitative data: Values, Processes, Resources and Tangible Services. Each of these themes encompassed numerous strengths and challenges which influenced church leaders’ and congregations’ ability to develop and deliver supports to adequately meet church members’ needs. Participants also shared a wide range of Scriptural and doctrinal beliefs to reinforce the importance of the congregation’s role in helping its members in tangible ways.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons