New poll shows public back Government funding for church heritage and reveals top ways to get more people to visit churches

New poll shows public back Government funding for church heritage and reveals top ways to get more people to visit churches 60% of British adults back the Government providing financial support for churches, chapels and meeting houses in order to protect their heritage and history for future generations, according to the findings of a new opinion poll, commissioned by church building repair and support charity, the National Churches Trust.
The overwhelming majority of British adults (84%) think that the UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history, according to the findings of the ComRes poll, which interviewed 2,038 GB adults online between the 16th and 17th December 2015.
83% of British adults think that the UK’s churches and chapels and meeting houses play an important role for society.
When people were asked what would most encourage them to visit churches, the top five responses were:
• A friendly welcome
• The provision of toilets
• A café or refreshment area,
• Comfortable seating
• Access to useful visitor information
The poll found that 57% of British adults said that they had visited a church in the past year for religious services, non-religious activities or as a visitor or tourist.
Key findings include:
• More than four in five Britons (84%) agree that the UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history. That is an increase of 5 percentage points compared to a similar poll conducted in December 2014.
• The majority of British adults (83%) agree that churches, chapels and meeting houses are important for society as they provide a space in which community activities can take place, as well as worship. That is an increase of 9 percentage points compared to a similar poll conducted in December 2014.
• 60% of British adults agree that the Government should give financial support to churches, chapels and meeting houses in order to protect their heritage and history for future generations. This question was not asked in a similar poll conducted in December 2014.
• Women are significantly more likely than men to agree that the Government should give financial support to churches, chapels and meeting houses (68% vs 52%).
• Almost three in five British adults (57%) say that they have visited a church, chapel or meeting house for any reason in the last year. That includes religious services (such as Sunday worship, weddings and funerals), non-religious activities (such as playgroups, cultural events, meetings and lunch clubs), or as a visitor or tourist. That is an increase of 9 percentage points compared to a similar poll conducted in December 2014.
Please note a slight alteration in question wording between 2014 and 2015 as below. These data are comparable but the changes in wording should be taken into account. 2015: “Thinking back over the last year, have you visited a church, chapel or meeting house in the UK for any reason, including religious services (such as Sunday worship, weddings and funerals), non-religious activities (such as playgroups, cultural events, meetings and lunch clubs), or as a visitor or tourist?” 2014: the question ran as follows: “Thinking back over the last year, have you visited a church or chapel building for any reason, including religious services or any non-religious activities (such as community activities, including playgroups, cultural events and meetings) or for any other non-religious purpose, such as tourism” (excluding mentions of the UK).

• Adults in Wales were the least likely (45%) and adults in the North East the most likely (64%) to have visited a church, chapel or meeting house for any reason in the last year.
• Almost one in five British adults say that they have visited a church, chapel or meeting house for a non-religious activity (such as playgroups, cultural events, meetings and lunch clubs) in the last year (18%), an increase of 5 percentage points since December 2014 (13%).
• Women are more likely than men to say that they have visited a church, chapel or meeting house for a religious service (such as Sunday worship, weddings and funerals) in the last twelve months (40% vs 34%).
• More than two in five British adults (43%) say that a friendly welcome would encourage them to visit a church, chapel or meeting house for any reason, including religious services, non-religious activities (such as playgroups, cultural events, meetings and lunch clubs) or as a visitor or tourist.
• 34% said that the provision of toilets and 32% said that a Café or refreshment area would encourage them to visit a church, chapel or meeting house for any reason, including religious services, non-religious activities (such as playgroups, cultural events, meetings and lunch clubs) or as visitor or tourist.
• 29% said that comfortable seating and 28% said that access to useful visitor information (e.g. details of things to see or do, opening hours, directions) would encourage them to visit a church, chapel or meeting house for any reason, including religious services, non-religious activities (such as playgroups, cultural events, meetings and lunch clubs) or as a visitor or tourist.
• Younger adults (those aged 18-34) are considerably more likely than their older counterparts (aged 65+) to say that WiFi would encourage them to visit a church, chapel or meeting house (27% compared to 5%).
• However, 46% of British adults agreed that it is difficult to find useful visitor information about churches, chapels and meeting houses, such as directions, opening hours and details of things to see and do.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said:
“This poll shows that there is overwhelming public support for church buildings, despite the decline in the numbers of people in Britain identifying themselves as Christian in recent years.”
“The British public thinks that churches, chapels and meeting houses are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history and that they are also important for society as they provide a space in which community activities can take place, as well as worship.”
“Looking to the future, our poll shows how even more people could be encouraged to visit churches. That includes making sure that visitors receive a friendly welcome and providing better facilities such as toilets, a café or refreshment area. WiFi was seen as particularly important by young adults. “ “It’s a fact of life that keeping church buildings open costs money, in most cases way beyond the means of congregations themselves. “ “That’s why it is good that the UK has a strong partnership of funders for church buildings, with money coming from Government and national organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, charities including the National Churches Trust, and local people and congregations.”
“I hope that the public backing for financial support made available from Government for church buildings shown in this opinion poll, which over the past two years has totalled over £130 million, will help ensure that this funding continues to be provided. “ “There are around 42,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses in the UK. Faced with changing patterns of worship and demographic change, it is sometimes tempting to think that there are simply too many churches and that many should be closed.”
“However, the huge support for churches demonstrated by this poll will, I hope, encourage local communities and church authorities to keep their buildings open. In good repair and with the right facilities to allow greater community use, churches, chapels and meeting houses can continue to play a vital role in the life and well-being of the nation for many, many years to come.”

Eddie Tulasiewicz

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