The Church and Social Cohesion: Connecting Communities and Serving People Report

The Church and Social Cohesion: Connecting Communities and Serving People is the concluding report of an 18–month project which seeks to understand the impact of churches on the cohesiveness of our communities across England. It was commissioned by the Free Churches Group, and authored by Dr Madeleine Pennington, Theos’ Head of Research.

Transformation Cornwall took part in the research.

The report offers six core recommendations for the future, three of which are directed at policymakers, and three of which are directed at churches.

It finds that policymakers should…

1. Ensure that they are working with churches wherever possible and appropriate as part of a move away from a crisis–driven approach;

2. Be prepared to engage with, and promote, both bridging and bonding opportunities as they emerge practically in local communities and beyond;

3. Take account of the specific ways in which churches operate in their communities.

Meanwhile, churches should…

4. Build on the natural strength of their embeddedness in community to tailor their engagement to the community in which they sit, what the community needs, and what their congregation will support;

5. Systematically reflect on their assets to ensure they are being used to their maximum potential in pursuit of better social cohesion outcomes;

6. If involved in providing services for the whole community, such as public service delivery or education, ensure inclusion and diversity are promoted in their spaces.

For further practical suggestions for how churches and policymakers can engage and work effectively together on cohesion issues, see the ‘How To’ booklets published alongside this report.

Download ‘Nurturing Social Cohesion: A how–to guide for engaging churches.’ A guide for policymakers and other secular partners looking to work more effectively with churches in pursuit of stronger communities.

Download ‘Nurturing Social Cohesion: Why it matters and what your church can do about it.A guide for churches looking to engage more deeply with their communities, and especially looking to build more positive relationships with secular partners.

The report highlights:

Particularly noteworthy is the Church’s response to austerity.... local churches [have taken] on a much greater role at the frontline of service delivery:

  • Faith-based volunteer hours rose by almost 60% from 2010-2014,
  • In 2015the Cinnamon Network valued this contribution at £3 billion.
  • Between 2006 and 2016 faith-based charities were the fastest growing area of the charity sector.
  • Research by Theos and the Church Urban Fund in 2014 found that 10 million people in the UK had used a church-based community service