Pentecostalism and Social Services in Botswana: Charting a new terrain in the religious provisioning of social support

While much has become known in recent years of the impact of the rapidly expanding domain of Pentecostal churches on African societies, in particular concerning personal and social relations, one aspect of this engagement has been largely overlooked. This is the domain of social services; that is, the kind of societal support that is directly concerned with those who are placed in a situation of immediate need. Governmental social work in general often concentrates on those who have become a victim of unfortunate circumstances, who are faced with an immediate material or immaterial need, or who are locked in a situation where they have become disenfranchised and are in need of social support. The delivery of social support is often researched in the conceptual framework and analysis of social security, i.e. the ways in which members of a population deal with situations of misfortune, injustice, and illness. Interestingly, while it is clear that the Pentecostal churches in Africa are involved with social issues and initiatives, much less is known about how and why they do so, which modalities they develop, and how they negotiate the contradictions that may emerge from their engagement with social support in view of the faith’s dogmas and principles. Botswana is one of a number of African country’s that has seen the spectacular growth of Pentecostal churches, but where little is known about the manner in which they deal with the provisioning of social support and the kinds of initiatives they develop. This research project investigates how, in this relatively affluent society, new meanings become attached to Pentecostal-influenced forms of social support that are currently being developed in urban settings.

Research is approved by the Botswana Government under research permit no. CMNIG 1/16/1 III (06)  

Research project
2017 to 2021

Senior researchers



Religion, Pentecostalism, social support, activism