Data Drop: The Faith Community

October 06, 2016 | Kristen Goettsch, Director of Evaluation and Development Featured

55%. Through a recent survey of a targeted faith community, over half of the respondents disagreed that addiction to alcohol and/or drugs is a personal weakness.

In September, Face It TOGETHER Sioux Falls (FITSF) and the South Dakota Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SD Synod – ELCA) kicked off their groundbreaking initiative to tackle addiction. Earlier in the summer, select congregations conducted a baseline Communities Facing Addiction awareness and attitudes survey. There were four congregations reporting surveys taken during this time period: First Lutheran, Gloria Dei, Our Savior Lutheran and St. John Lutheran. Overall, 455 surveys were collected.

Over half (60%) of the congregants that responded to the survey said they had a loved one impacted by the disease of addiction. Loved ones of someone struggling with the disease of addiction can find themselves isolating from others who may be able to help support them, due to the shame and fear of stigma they may be experiencing. Their community of faith can be a great source of support.

Fifty-five percent disagreed with the statement that addiction to alcohol and/or drugs is a personal weakness, while 26% agreed (Figure 1). Respondents from the 14-17 range were most likely to agree (61.5%) with this statement. Males of all ages were also most likely to agree (32.6%) and to be uncertain (23.0%) that addiction was a personal weakness.

Figure 1: Addiction to Alcohol and/or Drugs is a Personal Weakness

At the same time, more than 90% of the respondents agreed to the statement that addiction to drug and alcohol are treatable, chronic diseases (Figure 2). This level of agreement was consistent across all of the age and gender groups that responded. Slightly less than a quarter of the respondents ages 14-17 were uncertain. Disagreement with this statement, while low overall, primarily came from those in the 18-24 and 25-39 age categories and from the female congregants. 

Figure 2: Drug and Alcohol Addiction are Treatable, Chronic Diseases


It is a common misconception that the disease of addiction is a moral failing, a personal weakness. Understanding the aspects of the disease and recognizing the fundamental changes in the way a brain is structured and wired are important in helping people to be better educated about the disease and to approach the way that they view people with the chronic disease of addiction. Face It TOGETHER will work closer with the faith communities, and other segments of society, as we change the people’s attitudes toward the disease.