Less than one third of U.S. Protestant churchgoers do any volunteer work, even though a majority say they want to, according to a Lifeway Research report published May 23.

When asked, “Did you participate in any type of volunteer work for a charity in 2021?” 30% said, “yes,” 66% said, “no” and 4% were unsure.

A news release about the report cited a 2022 Lifeway survey, which found that Protestant pastors said a higher number (42%) of churchgoers volunteered in their congregation and 27% in their community, as well as U.S. Census Bureau data that found 23% of all U.S. adults volunteered somewhere from September 2020 to September 2021.

While 86% of all respondents expressed a desire to volunteer in their community and 85% said their churches encourage volunteering, this latest Lifeway report found that a minority of all respondents do so, with the 65-plus age group (40%) most likely to have volunteered.

Lutherans (53%) were more likely than Baptists (29%), Christian/Church of Christ (28%), non-denominational (28%) and Methodists (7%) to volunteer either in their church or community. Evangelicals (37%) were more likely than non-evangelicals (25%) to do so.

For the 86% of respondents who expressed a desire to volunteer, evangelism was a key motivation, since what they affirmed was the following statement: “I want to serve people in my community not affiliated with my church to hopefully have opportunities to tell them about the gospel.”

This sentiment was most common among 18-49-year-old respondents (91%), Methodists (95%), weekly worship attendees (88%) and evangelicals (90%).

“This study did not measure service churchgoers may have done individually for their neighbors. Meeting such needs as they arise is a great form of service,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, in a press release. “But some of the most widespread needs in communities require volunteers working together, something that the majority of churchgoers don’t do over the course of a year.”

The full report is available here. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

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