Church and the African-American Institutions Essay - Essay Prowess

Church and the African-American Institutions Essay


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The institution of the church and the African-American people


As far back as before the American Declaration of independence, Americans have always been known as a deeply religious people. The church as a social institution can be considered as the most critical institution as it has played a significant role in the cultural, political and socio-economic development of the African American communities. Ideologies ingrained in Christian religious beliefs, the church social organization structure and community leadership and guidance under church ministers and officials have all interacted to outline an organized social structure whose stability is supported through historical foundations. This essay seeks to look into ways through which Christianity as a religion more so the church as a social institution has played a critical role for development of the African American people. That is, from its rise from a rather invisible institution in the slavery period, to the miniature church in rural America, great urban churches to the storefront church.

How important has the institution of the church been for African-Americans?

The church being a social institution in its own right interacts with other social institutions such as the government, schools and the family influencing a number of outcomes based on religious beliefs. These have had a positive outcome on the development of the African American communities with regard to education, strengthening of personal and collective commitments to the family as a basic social unit translating to improvements in social health. The family, schools and the church are themselves socializing agents within the larger society falling under the jurisdiction of the government whether local, state or federal.

The African American culture is known to be deeply religious with research supporting that nearly 85% of African American adults admitting to being religious with more than 80% of them believing that it is vital to ensure that children regularly attend church. Nearly 80% of the African American adult populations are committed to praying often with almost 70% of them being members of a church organization.

However, the church as an institution performs other functions other than its core functions which are religious. These include being a forum for social education providing for forums for discussions and concerts, acting as a social center enhancing the provision of social services, political education and as a financial institution and is thus considered an integral part of the African American culture. The church as a religious and social institution has thus brought about cohesiveness among members of the African American community. The church’ critical and pivotal role in African American communities is further highlighted by secular function it undertakes as stated above. These have served to ensure that appropriate links are available for community health resources as well as the provision of a variety of instruments for social and psychological sustenance. From a historical perspective, the church as an institution has been critical as a forum and voice for the black people all over America eventually leading to their emancipation.

The church in most African American communities began as charitable social institutions facilitating for considerations to the welfare of, orphans, widows and the sick within the community. Social welfare projects funded by governments, communities and private organizations have replaced this role in the recent past but the church is still at the forefront of ensuring that the right persons in the community benefit from such programs. After the emancipation of the African Americans, churches underscored the need for education to the African American children establishing elementary schools, secondary schools as well as institutions of higher learning.

What is the social significance of the Mega church?

Mega churches have grown rapidly over the last few decades especially so within the Protestant circles. Mega churches are defined as churches whose congregation surpasses 2,000 members. Theses extra large churches are quite wealthy as they have the ability to pool and amass huge resources and have by extension influenced the way with which contemporary Americans worship today.  It is claimed that mega churches claim to be non denominational though a majority of mega churches claim to be denominational more so with respect to the African American communities who have historically been known to allow for a high degree of independence.

Mega churches as social institutions are well placed to offer services to local communities like social programs which meet specialized needs for such communities. They have the ability to maximize benefits accruing from funding opportunities availed through government and non governmental agencies in a manner more effective and efficient towards the development of local communities. African American mega churches have the profound opportunity to take advantage of such openings towards the provision of social services as they possess direct links among the members as well as socio-economic development activities. This has highlighted the importance of mega churches as social institutions more so because of the changes realized in the character change and scope of the delivery of social services.

The phenomenal growth of mega churches has been realized in a period of time in which other community development initiatives and activities as well as resource mobilization have been on a continued decline. Social associations such as garden clubs to hockey leagues to churches have witnessed a steady decline in membership leading to a decrease in social capital which is most commonly developed through voluntary participation in such social organizations. The continued rise of mea churches has therefore opened up an avenue through which improved participation can be fostered in a variety of social institutions, political as well as social sensitization. As such the growth of mega churches has been viewed as a means through which declining member numbers can be controlled with regard to membership losses within the more pronounce Protestant faith based churches.

Reports indicate that African American mega churches have been actively participating in broad based community development initiatives and activities. Through the establishment of community development corporations, African American mega churches have come up with means through which community development initiatives and activities can be coordinated. Such community development programs have in the recent past included commercial development initiatives like job training, offering financial assistance to small and medium sized enterprises, housing assistance, child care, clothing centers as well as food distribution programs for the needy within the community. These have led to the establishment of governmental departments such as the office of Faith based initiatives under the George W Bush administration through which African American communities can benefit from through channels availed by mega churches. The development of mega churches and their ability to pool massive resources has brought about a positive outcome in the development of the social economic standpoint of the African American communities.

 What do you think the future of religion is in America?  

Looking into the future, African American churches as social institutions portray a rather complex with respect to probable agendas. As such, religious and social scholars are of the view that their existence is in no way under threat rather, the society will require to relate with the church for a sense of spiritual belonging in the divine order of things and from a social perspective which will provide a common psychological standpoint.

In the past century the most profound impact that has been felt by African American churches all over the country have been as a result of rural to urban migration which first began with the onset of the First World War. African American migration into cities resulted in the growth of urban churches which prospered significantly as a result. However, it is important to note that the ingrained rural cultural norms have not been affected by the migration into cities but have rather been continuously reflected through worship, church organization structures as well as church agenda prioritization.

This can be attributed to the fact that most of these churches were established by leaders who migrated from rural America to urban cities in the quest for better quality of life. Thus as people migrate to cities they tend to identify with churches which express similar cultural, spiritual and religious norms. Some churchgoers are aware of the fact that the church is an institution roots for social change. There is therefore the need for churches to integrate Christian doctrines in to the realities, urgencies as well as consciousnesses of urban living.

However, it is important that churches be at the forefront of instituting social change such that it continues to devote time, expertise as well as other resources such as social capital to ensure that quality of life with regard to surrounding communities is realized continuously.