An interview study of Habitat for Humanity® as a voluntary organization and as a social form of religion
Habitat for Humanity®
Building Private Homes, Building Public Religion
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Jerome P. Baggett
Habitat for Humanity®, a grassroots house-building ministry founded in 1976 by evangelical Christians, is one of the best-known and most widely popular nonprofit organizations in operation today. With approximately 1500 local affiliates in the United States and more than 300 abroad in sixty-four countries, the organization has constructed more than 90,000 homes primarily by mobilizing concerned citizens, who include about 250,000 American volunteers each year.
The author tells the story of Habitat's development and the special fervor it evokes among volunteers and those for whom it builds houses. Through interviews with staff, he also provides a look into the organizational dynamics of Habitat, a non-profit whose religious mission for social change is inevitably affected by the instrumental, bottom-line orientation of the state and the market.
Baggett argues that Habitat is an example of a particular social form of religion, the paradenominational organization, that is uniquely adapted to the climate of the modern world. It is one of the vital forms that voluntarism takes today.
"This is an excellent book on Habitat for Humanity®its vision, its appeal to volunteers, its construction of 'real religion.' Baggett brings to this analysis a theoretical grasp of the role of parachurch organizations, an appreciation for how building houses can take on religious and civic meaning for volunteers, and a sensitivity to the many Americans today looking for ways to become engaged in a hands-on, service-oriented activity. The book is both informative and a genuine pleasure to read."
"Jerome Baggett's Habitat for Humanity® is an original and ground-breaking sociological study. In this first in-depth sociological investigation of Habitat for Humanity®, Baggett also provides keen insights into voluntarism and faith-based special purpose groups which engage in social service. He asks: How does faith embrace and challenge our common citizen ideals? For, as the subtitle of the book suggests, building public religion should also get linked to our public citizenship together."
"In describing the history, accomplishments, and popularity of Habitat for Humanity®, Jerome Baggett has produced a significant contribution to our understanding of religion and volunteering in America. Compared with the downward trend that characterizes so many civic organizations, Habitat for Humanity® has been remarkably successful in attracting a growing number of participants. Baggett shows us some of the reasons why, especially the importance of social organization that is flexible, pragmatic, specialized, and rooted in broad nonsectarian religious values."
Read a review from American Journal of Sociology, by Matthew P. Lawson (pdf).
"In this engaging book, Jerome Baggett uses the case of Habitat for Humanity to shed empirical light on religion's relationship to civic participation.... I recommend this well written, engaging book to all with an interest in the sociology of the voluntary sector and parachurch organizations."
Read a review from Social Thought: Journal of Religion in the Social Services, written by William J. Hutchison (pdf).
Read a review from Contemporary Sociology, Volume 31.1, written by Jerry Z. Park (pdf).
Read a review from Social Forces, Volume 80.2 (December 2001), written by Robin D.Perrin (pdf).
Read a review from The Journal of Community Practice, written by Phil Tom (pdf).
"...an excellent qualitative analysis of Habitat for Humanity and lessons this faith-based organization can teach other grassroots organizations."