Church of the poor? Strategies to engage people experiencing poverty

cotp_survey_coverDuring 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
  All

(330 responses)

Most

(49 resp)

Least

(68 resp)

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%
Other 18.5% 20.4% 17.6%
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. 

Click here to see Geoff’s first blog, about ‘poor-focused’social action.

Click here to see Geoff’s second blog, about the barrier of middle-class church. 

Click here to read our Church of the Poor? report and call to action.

Click here to download the Executive Summary.

Click here to download the full report.

 

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