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Families look for friends from a church, not activities

17 June 2022

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IN A new survey drawing lessons from Covid restrictions, almost half the parents reported that their faith had been strengthened at home; but more than one third said that they had not felt supported by their church.

The research, by the Nurturing Young Faith project at Liverpool Hope University, found what it described as “a huge disconnect” between what families wanted from the Church and what churches thought they families wanted.

“As churches emerge from Covid restrictions, our survey shows that many are seeing reduced engagement from families, decreased volunteers, uncertainty, and lack of energy for ministry amongst families,” the project leader, Dr Sarah Holmes, said.

“Our research showed that families appreciate relational contact much more from churches than activities and events. In the season ahead, it will be beneficial for local churches to embed into their ethos and activities an intentionality to support family’s faith in the home context. This will be affirming and supportive for those who have engaged more at home, and it will help those who are not sure or who have struggled.”

The project questioned 175 church leaders and 209 parents of children aged from birth to 16.

Of the parents, 46 per cent said that church relationships were the most beneficial aspect of church during the pandemic, while 22 per cent felt that the pandemic had reduced their family engagement with faith. Only two per cent said that worksheets and activities provided by the church had been beneficial.

“This indicates that in these recovery times, it would be strategic to reflect on using your time to invest in relational opportunities rather than devoting time to provide lots of events, services or resources,” the report deduces. “Fostering relational connections amongst the congregation will enable families to feel more engaged, included and cared for as part of the community of believers.”

The survey found a high degree of uncertainty. Among the church leaders, 43 per cent did not know how the pandemic had affected the engagement of their church families with faith, and 24 per cent did not know if families in their church felt supported in faith nurturing at home.

Some churches had responded by providing training for parents, with signposted resources, but many parents felt overwhelmed by this approach, and would have preferred a more targeted and specific support from their local church.

“In these times of reshaping ministry amongst families,” the report concludes, “it is key to actively dialogue with parents and children alike to establish their current situation, their specific spiritual needs and discuss together the way ahead for more effectively partnering with parents to nurture children’s faith.”

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