Relationships Not Resources Are Key For Church Engagement With Families Post-pandemic

New research shows 40% of churches have reduced engagement with families post-Covid

Liverpool Hope University and the National Institute for Christian Education Research (NICER) have just launched a brand new research-based report exploring the place of families in the church post-Covid.

Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were many anecdotal reports that in the post-lockdown season many families did not seem to be returning to regular church attendance. This posed concern for churches and many who are invested in seeing children grow in faith.

Sponsored by five para-church organisations*, Dr Sarah Holmes (Liverpool Hope University) and Dr Ann Casson (NICER) led research investigating how churches were connecting with Christian families.

The research has revealed that, ‘families’ faith at home tended to improve during the pandemic, whilst their engagement with church since has reduced. However, there is a significant disconnect between the perceptions of church leaders and parents about what is needed going forward. It is clear that churches must now consider how to respond to this change in families’ ethos and practices. It is key to meet families where they are and support those spiritual connections which occur at home rather than simply seeking to coax them back into church attendance.’

Other key findings show:

  • 89% of parents said that faith at home had stayed the same or increased since pre-pandemic (despite the fact that in many cases their attendance/engagement with church had reduced).
  • 99% of parents want the church to work in partnership with families to nurture children’s faith together. 97% of church leaders also want to work in partnership.
  • A quarter of church leaders did not know if the families in their church felt supported with nurturing faith at home.
  • 40% of parents said that the local church does not provide resources to support their child’s faith.
  • 88% of parents wanted the church to provide/signpost them to specific activities and resources to equip families for their own spiritual growth

The research included an online survey in Feb 2022 (completed by 175 church leaders and 209 parents of children aged 0-16), and in-depth interviews (between April and June 2022) with 36 children (aged 7 to 11 years old) and 18 Christian parents. The participants represented twelve different denominations from various locations across the UK.

An online launch event will take place on Thursday 17th November, 1pm and 8pm (repeated). The event will include information from each of the partner organisations about the ways they can equip and support church leaders and congregations to respond to some of the areas highlighted in the report.

As I meet with church leaders, it’s clear that the pandemic has thrown up lots of questions around what church life could and should look like. A significant part of the conversation is around children’s work and this new research helps us take stock of where we are at and gives us clear insights into how we work with families rather than just children. My prayer is that this research helps us have robust conversations about how we best support parents in nurturing faith.

Andy Frost, Director of Share Jesus International

This new research enables us to finally put statistics to the experiences that we shared over the pandemic. Some of its conclusions are confirmation of what we already ‘knew’, but it also provides some eyebrow raising surprises.  It makes for a thoughtful and provoking read that demands action.

Rachel Turner, Parenting for Faith Pioneer

A timely and challenging new piece of research to help church leaders step humbly but boldly into a new paradigm for supporting families.

Lucy Moore, Head of the Growing Faith Foundation at the Church of England

Let us hear the plea for authentic relationships in our churches so that families are supported in raising the next generation.  I am so encouraged to hear the voices of parents who are grasping their spiritual role and are eager to raise their children as flourishing Christians.

Ed Drew, Director of Faith in Kids

A research report of the findings can be seen here: New Research Report – What is the place of families in church post-Covid? | National Institute for Christian Education Research (NICER) (canterbury.ac.uk)

*Research sponsored by Share Jesus International, Hope Together, Evangelical Alliance, Care for the Family and Parenting for Faith.

Written by: Rhoda Hardie

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