Summer Allen: Social networks, trust, volunteering, and giving

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Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 2:9-10

“Studies suggest that our extended social networks and larger communities influence our generosity. For example, a survey of over 2,000 people found that people who had more friends were more generous—they more frequently engaged in behaviors like volunteering after an emergency or donating money, clothing, or blood.

Social networks and community integration appear to be especially important for encouraging volunteering. A survey of over 2,700 people found evidence that strong community ties promote greater time spent volunteering, and another study found that social connectedness, as measured by the number of different professional and social group meetings that a person attended, significantly predicted the number of hours that person spent volunteering, as well as the consistency of their volunteering and charitable donations.

A different study found that regions in Europe where people report more trust and social ties have higher volunteering levels.”

Summer Allen in “The Science of Generosity” White Paper produced by the Greater Good Science Center.

The science reveals that building community strengthens trust and grows both voluntary service and generosity.

In the first and earliest letter of the Apostle Paul, to the Galatians, he urged them to not grow weary in doing good to all people, especially the family of believers. Notice the emphasis on generous care for the community. This calls for both voluntary effort and charitable giving that nurtures trust and community. To do this at every opportunity also maximizes our Christian witness to the watching world.

What might this look like where you serve? If we want to see greater generosity then we need to start with building community and trust. This leads to greater volunteer service and giving. How might you encourage this in your context?

I shot the header photo above on my weekend getaway with my wife, Jenni, in Breckenridge, Colorado. It was beautiful. Getaways like this renew our strength for service so we don’t grow weary. They also remind us that when we empty ourselves our generous God can refill us again and again.