CHURCH IS WHERE THE HEART IS
Churchgoing is not in decline, according to figures released by Tearfund recently which show that one in four adults in the UK attend church at least once a year. According to research carried out by Tearfund, 12.8 million adults in the UK attend church at least once a year, of whom 7.3 million attend at least once a month. Christian relief and development agency Tearfund regularly interview 7,000 members of the public about their churchgoing habits, as part of wider research about perceptions of society and world issues, and have identified an upward trend in church attendance.
‘We have noticed that in the last year, there has been a significant increase in monthly attendance, bringing the figure for autumn 2008 to 15 per cent after a number of years of reported decline,’ says Matthew Frost, Chief Executive of Tearfund. ‘Similarly, the proportion of UK adults attending church at least once a year has increased from 21 per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent in 2008, which is an increase from around one in five adults to around one in four. ‘Our understanding is that more people are attending now than before, even if that is only a couple of times a year rather than every week. This might mean going to church at one of the high points in their family’s year, such as Christmas or Easter, or attending Sunday services or midweek events. This is of course immensely encouraging, because it shows that people are associating church and a belief in God with hope and joy, and a positive way to spend their time.’
The research questions were framed deliberately to exclude attendance for weddings, baptisms, funerals and other invitation-only events so as to concentrate on voluntary attendance. Groups showing a larger increase in attendance than the average between September 2007 and September 2008 included 25-34 year olds (up 7% from 15% to 22%), 65-74 year olds (up 6% from 27% to 33%), and over 75 year olds (up 10% from 29% to 39%). Geographically, the highest increases were found in Wales (up 12% from 12% to 24%), South East England (up 8% from 19% to 27%), Scotland (up 8% from 19% to 27%) and Northwest England (up 7% from 21% to 28%).
Tearfund’s work around the world is delivered primarily through local churches and community organisations working on the ground in 64 countries, to tackle spiritual and material poverty. The research, compiled of 7,000 interviews with adults around the UK, takes place twice a year and identifies trends in awareness of faith and world issues in order to influence the organisation’s development and communication.