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UK churches ramp up social action response in past two years

Hours spent by volunteers in UK Churches on local social action initiatives have increased by 36% since 2010 to 98m hours, according to a new survey by Jubilee Plus ...

Hours spent by volunteers in UK Churches on local social action initiatives have increased by 36% since 2010 to 98m hours, according to a new survey by Jubilee Plus.

In spite of the current economic problems, funds given by UK Church members that were spent on social action initiatives have increased by 19% in two years to £342m.

There has been a rapid diversification by churches – the average number of social action initiatives undertaken by a Church has risen from 5.7 to 8.2.

These figures only cover Church initiatives. They do not include voluntary work by Christians in the community that is not initiated by a Church (eg work by local charities).

In autumn 2010, Churches of all denominations across the UK were surveyed to see how they are currently involved in social action in their communities.

What has happened in the intervening two years?

To answer that question, the Survey was repeated in Autumn 2012. Several thousand churches of all denominations across the UK were contacted and 359 responded. Headline results are below with 2010 figures where applicable in [ ].

Projecting the volunteer hours and funds given by the churches in the sample against the number and size of churches, population and church going for the UK gives an estimate of 98m [72m] hours of volunteering for social initiatives by the Church in the UK. This represents a 36% increase since 2010.

Estimated direct finance provided by the churches is estimated as £342m [£288m]. This represents an increase of 19% since 2010.

For the first time, questions were asked about staff time and this is calculated as 55m hours in support of social action initiatives. This is equivalent to roughly one hour of staff time to two hours of volunteer effort.

"If we were to fully cost volunteer time (some of which is quite specialist) and paid staff time at average wage of £500pw or £12.50 per hour then the cost would be £1.925bn. Once you add in the use of facilities and direct financial contribution, one can see that the total contribution to social initiatives is probably above £2.5bn per annum." said Geoff Knott, author of the report.

Unsurprisingly, the larger the church, the more the hours spent on social initiatives. However, this goes up markedly for large churches of over 500 adults. Churches of every size show an increase in volunteer hours.

Only 26% [32%] of the churches in the sample received any outside funding. This averaged £12,382 [£13,351] per church, a 7% decrease in outside grants over 2010. These grants would not cover all the initiatives they are involved in. It also means that 74% of churches are financing social actions totally themselves.

Each Church is involved in an average of 8.2 initiatives. This is a large increase from 5.7 initiatives in 2010 despite the 2012 sample consisting of a larger number of smaller churches. We seem to be seeing a rapid diversification in social action initiatives along with an increase in resources and also putting existing effort and resources to new uses.

Top 10 Social Action initiatives by churches:

Mothers and Toddlers
Schools assemblies/RE work
Festivals/Fun days
Food distribution
Children's Club - up to age 11 (apart from church children's ministry)
Caring for Elderly (apart from church members)
Youthwork - 12-18 (apart from church youth ministry)
Cafe open to public
Primary School Clubs/Summer clubs
Arts – drama, media, music, etc (apart from church members)

The number of churches involved in Festivals/Fun Days has increased significantly. This may be associated with Diamond Jubilee and Olympic celebrations.

The number of churches involved in Food Distribution has increased significantly.

58% [68%] of the Churches plan to increase social initiatives in the next 12 months. Only 4% [3%] plan to reduce.

66% [81%] of Churches think it Essential or Very Important that Churches can maintain their Christian distinctives in social initiatives. This is a significant reduction since 2010.

Biggest hindrances to doing more are; Volunteers/time, Funding, Vision/Leadership, Ageing Congregation, Premises/Equipment, Staffing/Management. Red Tape/Laws has reduced as an issue – it was in fourth place in 2010.

Biggest encouragements from social initiatives are; Community involvement, Attendance at events/ growth, Changing us, Meeting needs, Appreciation/ Recognition, Relationships with authorities and local organisations, Churches working together.

An encouragement that was not mentioned in 2010 was relationships with authorities and local organisations. This has now a significant number of mentions and is a testimony to an openness to faith-based community action.

The £10,000 Challenge

If churches were given £10,000, what sort of social actions would they want to spend it on? 80% would be spent, in order of average size of grant, on:

Youthwork – 12-18 (apart from church youth ministry)
Debt Counselling
Food distribution
Children's Club – up to age 11 (apart from church children's ministry)
Cafe open to public
Caring for Elderly (apart from church members)
Mothers and Toddlers
Addiction (inc. alcohol and drug abuse)
Lunches for needy
Other
Arts – drama, media, music, etc (apart from church members)
Festivals/Fun days
Primary School Clubs/Summer clubs
Parenting Help/Courses
Helping Homeless get settled
Schools assemblies/RE work
Helping Jobless back into work

They would want to help finance 6.0 [4.4] ministries on average with an average grant of £1,680 [£2,257].

The full report (1mb) can be downloaded here.

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