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«ABSTRACT. Interest in faith-based organizations has increased substantially since the Bush administration made them a priority in the presidential ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

Building a Faith-Based

Human Service Agency:

A View from the Inside

Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman

Michael J. Austin

ABSTRACT. Interest in faith-based organizations has increased substantially since the Bush administration made them a priority in the presidential campaign of 2000 and established a special office in the White

House to promote their involvement in government supported human

services. The primary goal of this initiative is to encourage faith-based organizations, usually understood to mean congregations, to engage their members in supporting services to those most in need. While most research on faith-based organizations is limited to the past decade or two, very little is known about how they operate. This case study of Community Ministries of Rockville, Maryland (CMR) is designed to address this issue. CMR differs from most faith-based organizations in that it neither represents a single congregation nor the traditional faith-related social service agency like Catholic, Jewish, or Lutheran Social Services. The case study features the twenty-five year history of the Executive Director of a faith-based human service organization supported by twenty congregations. It concludes with the identification of major challenges and lessons learned. [Article copies available for a fee from The

Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address:

docdelivery@haworthpress.com Website: http://www.HaworthPress.com © 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] Reverend Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman is Executive Director of Community Ministries of Rockville, and Pastor of the Rockville United Church, Rockville, MD.

Michael J. Austin, PhD, is Professor of Management and Planning, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, CA (E-mail: mjaustin@berkeley.edu).

Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work, Vol. 24(3) 2005 Available online at http://www.haworthpress.com/web/JRSSW © 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1300/J377v24n03_05 69


KEYWORDS. Human service agency, faith-based organization, faithbased initiative, Charitable Choice, social ministry, advocacy Recent interest in faith-based human service organizations can be traced to the welfare reform legislation of 1996 (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) and the Charitable Choice provisions that granted religious organizations opportunities to compete for government contracts. In fact, the involvement of religious organizations in the field of social welfare dates back to ancient times when caring for the poor and disenfranchised were originally incorporated into religious doctrine. In more recent times in the United States, sectarian social welfare agencies have been actively involved in serving the needy among us for over a century.

The provision of Charitable Choice was given increased prominence with the 2000 election of President George W. Bush and the establishment of a White House Office for Religious-based and Community Groups (Executive Order 13198 and 13199). It called for: (1) the elimination of obstacles (regulatory and contracting) to the participation of faith-based organizations in delivering social services, (2) the incorporation of this provision into all related social welfare departmental policies and procedures, and (3) the development of demonstration programs to increase the participation of faith-based organizations (OFCI, 2003). The untested premise for the charitable choice initiative includes the views that: (a) faith is a missing element in the provision of social services (e.g., the dangers posed by social problems, such as crime and drug abuse, outweigh the threats to the separation of church and state) (Monsma, 1996), (b) local faith-based organizations are more responsive to local needs, more flexible, less costly, and less bureaucratic, and (c) faith-based organizations are better able to promote civic responsibility through volunteers and fundraising. In essence, faith-based organizations are seen as more effective in changing the human behavior of individuals than traditional nonprofit agencies (Kennedy & Bielefeld, 2002).

However, the Faith-Based Initiative can affect the behavior of organizations by creating competition where little currently exists between congregations and community ministries. The ultimate outcome of the Initiative is to shrink the amount of government funding by encouraging congregations to compete with other faith-based services including community ministries, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and others. In contrast, community ministries stress cooperation over competition between faiths and denominations for the sake of strengthening the local community.

This article is a case study of the development of a faith-based human service organization, the Community Ministries of Rockville, Maryland (CMR).

Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman and Michael J. Austin 71 It describes the evolution of the organization from the perspective of its long-term executive director, the Reverend Kasey Kaseman, and reported with the assistance of the second author. Throughout the case study, Kasey is referred to in the third, rather than first, person. The case study captures only his perceptions, possibly giving the impression that he alone is the agency when, in fact, many others (staff and board members) play significant roles in promoting the success of the organization.


In order to capture the essence of the expanding literature on faith-based organizations over the past several decades, this literature review is divided into three domains: (1) historical perspectives on faith-based organizations, (2) the role of congregations, and (3) the nature of social ministry.

Historical Perspectives

As Gibelman and Gelman (2003) have noted, religious groups have historically implemented their charitable missions by providing services through their congregations or have established social service agencies (e.g., Catholic Social Services, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Lutheran Family Services, Salvation Army, etc.). While many nonprofit social service agencies have religious origins, the faith-based sectarian agencies have become independent communal organizations that engage in contracting with a wide variety of public and nonprofit organizations (Gibelman & Demone, 1998). As

Gibelman and Gelman (2003) note:

Sectarian services tend to be favored under two circumstances: when the need for service providers exceeds current levels (as during the Depression and the 1960s) or, alternatively, during conservative political eras when social need moves from center stage [politically] and emphasis is placed on community structures, including religious groups, as the primary source of service provision.... Locally based religious bodies are able to address community needs in times of plenty, but their resources are insufficient to resolve major social, economic or psychological problems, particularly in times of economic downturn. (p. 10) They conclude their historical review by noting that there has been a longstanding relationship between sectarian faith-based organizations and government and that congregations have generally not been major social service providers except for short-term emergencies. A possible exception to


this assessment is the historic role of the church in African American communities (Billingsley, 1999) where such faith-based organizations have been continuous providers of various social services.

The Role of Congregations Chavis and Tsitsos (2001) summarize the growing literature on the relationship between congregations and social service organizations. In order to place this case study in a larger context, it is useful to include the typology developed by Cnaan et al. (1999) for religion-based social service organizations that is “based on the geographic locus of service and, by default, the organizational complexity” (p. 27). They identify the following six types of faith-based organizations: (1) congregations, (2) interfaith agencies and coalitions, (3) sectarian agencies (city/regional), (4) national organizations/ projects, (5) advocacy and relief organizations (unaffiliated but religiously motivated), and (6) international organizations (religiously affiliated). This case study features #2 as they define an interfaith agency to include: organizations of local congregations from different religions and denominations that join together for purposes of community solidarity, social action, and/or... service provision... beyond the scope of a single congregation (p. 32).

A similar typology was developed by Rahn and Whiting (1965) that includes three categories: (1) church-related agencies/programs (drug abuse counseling, job development), (2) autonomous agencies (administered by board members from a church or denomination), and (3) inter-denominational agencies (administered by groups representing various faiths with a common ecumenical purpose focused on community needs). This case study features aspects of all three types as it provides church-related programs in the context of an autonomous and inter-denominational nonprofit organization.

In addition to identifying the types of faith-based organizations, it is also important to categorize the types of services they provide. Ammerman (2001) developed six types of outreach categories: (1) direct services to people in need (food pantries and soup kitchens, shelter, clothes closets, child care, health screening, financial aid, transportation), (2) educational and cultural activities (substance abuse prevention, tutoring, youth camps, job counseling, senior centers), (3) community development (neighborhood outreach and support groups, self-help groups), (4) public advocacy (civil rights, coalitions on environmental or health and social service issues), (5) evangelistic outreach activities (home and abroad), and (6) humanitarian efforts for third world countries. This case study reflects the first four types of outreach services.

Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman and Michael J. Austin 73

The Nature of Social Ministry

As Macarov (1978) has noted, all major religions have stressed, to some extent, the importance of shared responsibility, kindness towards and justice for the needy, and the achievement of self-fulfillment through service to others.

Dolgoff et al. (1993) explored some of the roots of Christian social ministry in the tenets of the Old Testament and related liturgy that have guided the Judeo-Christian approaches to social welfare (e.g., clothing the naked, feeding the poor, visiting the sick, caring for orphans and the elderly, consoling the bereaved, and burying the dead). To complement the moral teachings and the concepts of justice found in the Old Testament, the Christians added an emphasis on love and compassion that led to the following twelve areas of social ministry: care of widows, orphans, sick, poor, disabled, prisoners, captives, slaves, victims of calamity, burial of the poor, meals for the needy, and employment services for the unemployed (Brackney & Watkins, 1983).

Clearly the moral principles buried in social ministry provide a foundation for the practices and principles that guide faith-based organizations. As Ortiz (1995) observed, faith-based organizations are a natural site for delivering accessible services, identifying community needs, and using the untapped resources of volunteers to meet pressing needs. There is also growing recognition in the field of social work that faith-based organizations are important service providers to racial and ethnic minorities as well as to highly stigmatized populations (substance abusers and prisoners). The work of faith-based organizations clearly builds upon the values that guide the provision of public and voluntary social services (Netting, 1984, 1986; Lewis, 2003).

–  –  –

Historical Background Community Ministries of Rockville was formed through the merger of Presbyterian Church USA with a United Church of Christ congregation in

1967. The goal was to initiate an ecumenical social justice ministry while also sustaining more traditional parish ministries. The first community minister was the Reverend Donald Maccallum who moved out of the church and into commercial property in the center of Rockville, MD. The point was to demonstrate commitment in serving the greater community and to establish a coffeehouse for the addicted, delinquent and troubled youth of that time. The United Church Center for Community Ministries included this social center, a counseling service to parents and youth, and an advocacy program with city


and county government as well as the Board of Education. Don’s success is reflected in his being named Director of the new Department of Substance Abuse formed by Montgomery County in response to his advocacy in 1975.

The Reverend Al Winham arrived in 1976 from the National Council of Churches Delta Ministry in Mississippi to be Don’s successor. His expertise in race relations was an important factor in the need to respond to the growing unrest in local high schools and a desire to empower an old pre-Reconstruction African-American neighborhood known as Lincoln Park. Al played a major role in raising the conscience of local political leaders and helped the city of Rockville create its first Human Rights Commission, which he chaired and through which he organized annual Martin Luther King, Jr. observances that continue today. Al also created an advisory board of lay leaders who volunteered but were not officially elected or appointed from nine congregations in Rockville. It was an informal organization without minutes or officers. By the time Al retired in 1978, however, this organization had helped establish Rockville FISH (a voluntary emergency service program), a chapter of the Grey Panthers, a community center in Lincoln Park and three affordable housing programs in Lincoln Park and two other neighborhoods.

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