A FRIENDLY welcome — and a lavatory — are the best ways to get people to visit a church, a survey published this week has suggested.
The research for the National Churches Trust, a church-building repair and support charity, also found that, among the people surveyed, a majority believed that the Government should provide financial support for churches, chapels, and meeting houses.
The findings of the ComRes poll, in which 2038 British adults were interviewed online during December, showed that almost three in five of those questioned had visited a religious building during the previous year for a variety of reasons, from worship to tourism. Regionally, people in Wales were the least likely (45 per cent) to make a visit, and those in the north-east the most likely (64 per cent).
Women were more likely than men to attend a religious service: 40 per cent, compared with 34 per cent; and they were more likely to agree that the Government should give financial support: 68 per cent compared with 52 per cent.
The majority (84 per cent) thought that church buildings were an important part of the heritage and history of the UK; and a similar number (83 per cent) said that they played an important part in society — a nine-per-cent increase on 2014.
There are about 42,000 churches, chapels, and meeting places in the UK. Over the past two years, the Government has given more than £130 million to help maintain them.
Apart from a warm welcome, and the facilities, the biggest incentives to make a visit were a café or refreshment area, comfortable seating, and useful visitor information. Some 27 per cent of younger adults thought that Wi-Fi might encourage them to come in, compared with five per cent of the over-65s.
The trust’s chief executive, Claire Walker, said: “This poll shows that there is overwhelming public support for church buildings, despite the decline in the numbers of people in Britain identifying themselves as Christian in recent years.
“It’s a fact of life that keeping church buildings open costs money.
. . . The huge support for churches demonstrated by this poll will, I hope, encourage local communities and church authorities to keep their buildings open. In good repair, and with the right facilities . . . churches, chapels, and meeting houses can continue to play a vital role in the life and well-being of the nation.”