Faith-based versus secular providers of social services--differences in what, how, and where

J Health Hum Serv Adm. 2006 Winter;29(3):309-35.


Recent public policies have promoted an increased role for faith-based organizations in the delivery of publicly supported services. Yet, there is little information on how service delivery by faith-based and secular providers might differ. This study seeks a better understanding of role differences by analyzing the broad context of social service delivery patterns in Los Angeles County. We find important differences. Faith-based organizations are much more concentrated in their service offerings than their secular counterparts. However, they play an important role through their emphasis on transitional assistance, their multi-service orientation, and their reliance on interventions that utilize their unique strengths. Secular nonprofit and public providers, in contrast, offer a much more comprehensive set of services. The results suggest that faith-based organizations have a modest and focused role in social service delivery, but one that is complementary to the efforts of secular providers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Local Government
  • Los Angeles
  • Organizations, Nonprofit / organization & administration*
  • Organizations, Nonprofit / statistics & numerical data
  • Problem Solving
  • Public Policy
  • Public Sector / organization & administration*
  • Public Sector / statistics & numerical data
  • Religion*
  • Role
  • Social Welfare
  • Social Work / organization & administration*