A SHORTAGE of volunteers and a “lack of passion” in members of the congregation are among the obstacles to churches serving the disadvantaged, new research suggests.
The Church Urban Fund (CUF) commissioned the Christian Research Consultancy to conduct “in-depth interviews” with eight church leaders “who had successfully transformed neglected and poorly attended churches in deprived communities”, a CUF statement said. This was combined with “data from a national online survey of 900 Anglican clergy”.
The CUF reported that the main reasons given for not carrying out more work among the disadvantaged included: “a shortage of volunteers, project leaders and funding”; “a lack of passion within the church”; and “not knowing what to start”.
It reported that a “key finding” of the interviews with the eight church leaders was that “growth of failing churches in deprived areas was achieved through committed and entrepreneurial leadership, combined with a willingness to discover community needs.
“Each of the eight church leaders interviewed for the study had a unique and inspiring story, detailing how working with partners to address local needs had repositioned their church within the heart of the community,” the CUF statement said. “Under their leadership, their churches overcame real and perceived barriers to change, and the church’s work attracted new worshippers and volunteers, and new partner organisations and funding.”
One of the church leaders interviewed said: “You don’t do the projects in order to grow the church. You do the projects in order to love people, but if you’re doing that, the Holy Spirit has got to be at work. Somebody’s got to be asking questions about faith out of all that.”
Ninety-three per cent of church leaders surveyed in the online survey agreed that “engaging with the poor and marginalised in the local area was a vital activity for a healthy church”. Only 44 per cent, however, said that this was a “fundamental part” of their church’s strategy.