THE number of volunteers working in community projects through
their church has risen by nearly 60 per cent in the past four
years, a new survey suggests.
Up to 1.4 million volunteers took part in church-based projects
last year, putting in 115 million hours, which are worth an
estimated £2.4 billion to society.
The report Investing More for the Common Good:
National church social action survey results 2014,
published by the charity Jubilee+, found that churches have also
employed more paid staff to help them reach out through projects to
people in need in their communities. Churchgoers are also funding
social action themselves: the amount they give to projects has
increased by 37 per cent since 2010.
The survey found that churches were most frequently involved in
food distribution through foodbanks, parent-and-toddler groups,
working in schools, caring for the elderly, and running cafés.
The rise in church-based volunteering mirrors the rise in
dependence on foodbanks in the UK, many of which have links to
churches, and are operated by volunteers from within the
Four years ago, only eight per cent of churches were involved in
food-distribution projects; in 2012, this rose to 62 per cent of
churches; and, at the end of last year, it had climbed to 80 per
The survey does not include volunteer hours put in by Christians
at other, non-church-based community projects.
The Labour MP Stephen Timms, who chairs the All-Party
Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society, said: "It is remarkable
to see such continued, increasing effort, with over a million
volunteers, along with church staff, regularly engaging in social
action of all kinds.
"Also remarkable is the fact that they are, for the most part,
financing their own efforts, and opening up their buildings and
facilities free of charge. This movement of church-based social
activism is one of the most positive developments in modern
The questionnaire for the survey, which is carried out every two
years, was sent to church leaders. Some 230 churches, of all
denominations, responded: 23 per cent of re- sponders were from
Anglican churches; 22 per cent from Free Churches, and the majority
were classed as medium or larger church congregations.
Results suggest that churches run an increasingly diverse range
of projects, including helping people to get fit, stress
counselling, teaching English as a second language, helping with
adoption, and helping victims of sex-trafficking. Each church in
the UK is estimated to help 1431 people through social-action
Most church leaders said that they could help more people if
they had more volunteers, but that increasing demands of work were
cutting down the number of volunteers available, especially for
projects run in the daytime.