Use of Ministers for a Serious Personal Problem Among African Americans: Findings from the National Survey of American Life


  • Nyasha Grayman is now at Goucher College.

  • National Survey of American Life (NSAL) data collection was supported by Grant U01-MH57716 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) with supplemental support from the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Michigan. The preparation of this article was supported by Grant U01-MH57716 from NIMH (Principal Investigators: Neighbors and Taylor) and Grants R01-AG18782 (PIs: Chatters and Taylor) and P30-AG15281 (PI: Taylor) from the National Institute on Aging, NIH.

concerning this article should be addressed to Linda Chatters, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 1420 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined use of ministers for assistance with a serious personal problem within a nationally representative sample of African Americans (National Survey of American Life—2001–2003). Different perspectives on the use of ministers—social stratification, religious socialization, and problem-oriented approach—were proposed and tested using logistic regression analyses with demographic, religious involvement, and problem type factors as predictors. Study findings supported religious socialization and problem-oriented explanations indicating that persons who are heavily invested in religious pursuits and organizations (i.e., women, frequent attenders) are more likely than their counterparts to use ministerial assistance. Contrary to expectations from the social stratification perspective, positive income and education effects indicated that higher status individuals were more likely to report use of ministers. Finally, problems involving bereavement are especially suited for assistance from ministers owing to their inherent nature (e.g., questions of ultimate meaning) and the extensive array of ministerial support and church resources that are available to address the issue.