Sources of Social Support: Examining Congregational Involvement, Private Devotional Activities, and Congregational Context


  • Jennifer M. McClure

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University
    • Correspondence should be addressed to Jennifer McClure, Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, 211 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail:

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  • Note: The data for this project are publicly available through the Association of Religion Data Archive.

  • Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Deborah Bruce, Cynthia Woolever, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Research Services staff for providing the data for this project. The author would also like to thank Roger Finke, David Johnson, and Jenny Trinitapoli for their feedback throughout the course of this project, as well as three anonymous reviewers and Laura Olson for their comments and suggestions.


Previous studies examining the relationship between religion and providing social support have claimed that religious involvement and social networks explain the higher levels of social support among religious Americans. By limiting its focus to attenders of religious congregations, this study seeks to understand if private devotional activities and congregational context also matter for predicting the provision of social support in a highly religious sample. Utilizing a sample of attenders and their congregations from the 2008/2009 U.S. Congregational Life Survey, a national survey representative of American congregations, this study uses multilevel models to examine the relationships that congregational involvement, private devotional activities, and congregational context have with providing social support. Results suggest that, among attenders of religious congregations, congregational involvement and private devotional activities matter for predicting the provision of social support, but two aspects of congregational context—size and theology—do not.