During the summer, our ‘Church for the Poor’ survey attracted 384 responses from churches of all denominations. In the last of three guest blogs, Geoff Knott from Word on the Streets explores some of the strategies churches are using to engage with people experiencing poverty.
Churches in the survey were asked what strategies, if any, they using to reach people experiencing poverty. A number of strategies were presented and respondents were asked to tick all that applied to their churches. There was also an opportunity to enter free text if a strategy was not on the list.
|Strategy to reach people experiencing poverty||Level of deprivation in area|
|Partnering with other churches to create initiatives to reach poor||53.0%||67.3%||54.4%|
|Social action based at your church building||51.5%||65.3%||36.8%|
|Gathering, building relationships and listening to the poor||34.5%||65.3%||20.6%|
|Creating a community without recognisable ‘church’ trappings||32.1%||49.0%||22.1%|
|Social action and creating a place/events for those responding||30.3%||53.1%||22.1%|
|Social action based in the poorer community at a ‘neutral’ location||23.6%||34.7%||29.4%|
|Bringing on leaders from poor backgrounds||12.1%||26.5%||2.9%|
|Helping the poor speak to business and/or authorities||11.5%||26.5%||4.4%|
|New church plant in the poorer area||6.1%||14.3%||2.9%|
Other strategies being pursued apart from above:
- Giving to and volunteering for local charities – 14 mentions
- On local authority groups influencing policy – 3 mentions
- Working with other faiths – 3 mentions
As you would expect, churches in the most deprived areas are heavily engaged in strategies to reach people experiencing poverty. This contrasts greatly with churches in least deprived areas. The biggest gaps are:
|Strategy to reach people experiencing poverty||Absolute difference|
|Gathering, building relationships and listening to people experiencing poverty||44.7%|
|Social action and creating a place/events for those responding||31.0%|
|Social action based at your church building||28.5%|
|Creating a community without recognisable ‘church’ trappings||26.9%|
|Bringing on leaders from poor backgrounds||23.6%|
|Helping the poor speak to business and/or authorities||22.1%|
There is a good level of partnership between churches – mostly food banks I suspect given the number of churches in all areas involved in this activity.
What is noticeable though is the intentional involvement of people experiencing poverty in church life in areas of most deprivation, either in speaking about their experiences, involvement in social action, leadership or advocacy. Strategies for all leadership teams to consider if they want to see a church without barriers.
Word on the Streets organised the ‘Church for the Poor’ survey with support form Church Action on Poverty and Jubilee Plus.