What do we need for the future?

What did the first survey tell us?

A volunteer hands out food bags at Holy Trinity Brompton church, London
A volunteer handing out food bags at Holy Trinity Brompton, London. Credit: HTB

This project is not only interested in finding out what has taken place over the course of the last year, but also towards what churches should be doing - and the resources they need in order to do these - over the coming months and years ahead. This concerns both the ongoing provision churches could offer as the pandemic continues as well as the more long-term aspects to support congregations and communities through the rebuilding process and beyond as we look into the future.

Before exploring the findings here in greater detail, one aspect that is immediately encouraging to consider is the high percentage of volunteers who wish to continue in their roles once it is possible to resume. Among the Church Members surveyed, 85% had specific roles at their church/cathedral or help in some capacity, with 80% of these telling us they expect to continue in their roles.

Among those who said they may not, the reasons cited frequently do not concern a lack of desire to ever be engaged again, but rather that there is no immediate indication that the roles will be possible again soon - for example, due to continuing social distancing guidelines or restrictions on choirs.

Yet this is not to say that the relationship between churches and their volunteers has been unaffected by the pandemic. Among clergy who said their relationship with volunteers had changed over the course of lockdown, 44% suggested that it had diminished, with only 39% saying it had improved.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of church engagement with the community, and it is essential that these individuals are supported in the period to come.

“During the pandemic, the wider community and churches here have been working together - to ensure everyone was looked after - young and old.”

Suburban Church Leader, aged 61-70

What is it that people are looking for as churches/cathedrals begin to re-open their buildings and activities? The results are wide-ranging, The results are wide-ranging, and we saw a real balance between calls focused on a return of those elements that were most appreciated by the individual respondents - whether that is the Sunday services, community groups, or other provisions - and those aspects that have emerged as particularly acute during the pandemic.

“I want to be able to worship with others in a holy place, hallowed by prayer and worship. I want to be able to receive communion again. I want to be able to socialise with Christian friends after church services”

Town Church Member, aged 61-70

“[Churches should be] prioritising support for children and young people. This will in turn help parents, in particular mothers by helping to share with the worries about them in terms of impact of living with Covid.

Rural member of the general public, aged 31-40

A sign outside a baptist church advertises it as a vaccination centre
St Peter's Baptist Church, Worcester, opened as an NHS vaccination centre in January 2021. Credit: Baptist Union of Great Britain

What do we want to find out this time?

The events of the past year have both caused and revealed great need and great creativity in the church and in wider society. In order to move forward, in this survey we are focusing in particular on what you think churches could be doing more to help their congregations and communities through the period of rebuilding, but also finding our from church leaders what is needed in order to bring this about. We’d love to hear from you with any thoughts on how the church works towards the future.