In an August New York Times article entitled Friending Bias, David Leonhart explored studies on what helps lower income children experience upward mobility. Among the findings were that communities connecting people across class lines are key for helping children rise out of poverty. One example of this reality highlighted by the author was faith communities. Leonhart observed, “Churches and other religious organizations may have some lessons to teach other parts of society. Although many churches are socioeconomically homogeneous, those with some diversity tend to foster more cross-class interactions than most other social activities. Churches have lower levels of what the researchers call socioeconomic “friending bias.”’
These insights are significant for those at the intersection of faith and mental health. For instance, mental health professionals would do well to see faith communities as offering not only spiritual support but community integration to those they serve. Conversely, faith leaders should feel emboldened to see their congregations as a resource for not only spiritual growth but public health. When providers and congregations take these perspectives, collaboration becomes a way for each to become an even better version of themselves. Providers will expand their options for connecting people to communal networks while congregations will increase their opportunities to serve the poor and marginalized. Some avoid such collaboration for fear of abandoning their core organizational mission. However, Leonhart shows us that rather than diminishing our mission, we expand its footprint when we collaborate for the common good.