More than 13,100 social action projects are run by Church of England churches, according to figures launched today.
These new data provide the most comprehensive picture to date of the Church’s engagement in local communities, and show that at least 80% of Anglican churches in England are involved in social action in some way.
As well as running projects themselves, many churches are involved in hosting social action initiatives, partnering with others to run them, and providing volunteers and donations to support them. When these different kinds of involvement are considered, churches are involved in almost 33,000 projects, an astonishing number.
Among the types of social action projects that the survey asked about were food banks, parent and toddler groups, community cafes, holiday clubs, debt advice, night shelters, and lunch clubs for older people.
Church Urban Fund’s Together Network exists to support churches in engaging with their communities. It provides local level support with project development, fundraising and governance, and helps broker and promote partnerships between churches, community organisations, businesses, local government and other groups looking to work for the good of their communities. The sheer scale of the Church of England’s involvement in social action highlights the importance of this work, helping to ensure that best practice is developed and shared, and promoting a coordinated, joined up approach.
Today’s figures illustrate the deep reach that churches have into local communities, underlining views voiced elsewhere that they are one of the few institutions that maintains a genuinely local presence, including in the most marginalised and socially excluded contexts.
Social action data were collected for the first time in 2017 as part of Statistics for Mission, an annual survey administered by the Church of England Research and Statistics team that all Church of England churches are required to complete. The social action question was completed by almost 13,000 churches.
Responding to the data, Archbishop Justin Welby said: “We don’t just do this to be ‘nice’ but because our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to act.”
Understanding this relationship between Christian faith and social action is central to the GRA:CE project, a major study Church Urban Fund are conducting in partnership with the think tank Theos. This research is gathering stories, as well as statistics, about the many ways in which churches are engaging with their communities, in order to understand the connections between discipleship, church growth and social action: all of which are essential if current levels of social engagement are to be sustained.