Moved to partner: A case study of faith-based congregations in disaster response




faith-based organizations, recovery, disaster response, Hurricane Harvey, churches, emergence, organizational adaption, collaboration


When disaster strikes, many players are involved in the response: local, state, and federal governments; public entities; community and faith-based organizations (FBOs). Some of these players are prepped to respond to disasters, while others emerge spontaneously to assist when need (or perceived need) arises. Consistently, FBOs are involved with disaster response efforts. “Faith-Based Congregations” or “FBCs” are a subsect of FBOs that are formally organized, stationary religious congregations such as churches, temples, mosques, etc. Unlike some FBOs, FBCs are embedded in communities and steeped in those communities’ cultures. The value of FBCs to disaster management is recognized at the federal level, as FEMA encourages local emergency managers to engage their “Whole Community.” Though shown to provide for many needs following disaster, FBCs’ role in disaster is largely understudied. Additionally, the mechanics of engaging with FBCs are not simple to implement. The role of FBCs, how they adapt, and the predictors of their involvement need to be better understood in order for improved cross-sector collaboration pre- and post-disaster.

The purpose of this study was to explore the role of FBCs in the disaster response process and how FBCs are impacted by the early transition to recovery. This study addressed two primary research questions: nnWhat is the role of FBCs during disaster response?

How do FBCs change (temporarily and permanently) during disaster response, and what factors may promote or inhibit change?

To answer these questions, this qualitative study employed telephone interviews with leaders of FBCs who helped provide disaster response assistance to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Katy, Texas.

Author Biographies

Julie H. Elliott, MS

Joseph R. Biden School of Public Policy, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

Gary R. Webb, PhD

Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas


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How to Cite

Elliott, MS, J. H., and G. R. Webb, PhD. “Moved to Partner: A Case Study of Faith-Based Congregations in Disaster Response”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 21, no. 1, Jan. 2023, pp. 37-51, doi:10.5055/jem.0712.