New survey reveals churches’ struggle to connect with young people as we launch new grants programme to help

A poll of more than 800 churches has shown that more than two thirds have five or fewer young people in their worshipping community; but 96% would love to provide more support and activities for them if they had the right skills and resources in place.

In preparation for launching our new Growing Lives grants programme, we carried out a survey of churches from a range of Christian denominations throughout the UK and Ireland to gain insight into the work that churches are engaged in with children (age 0-10) and young people (age 11 to 18).

Our new Growing Lives grants programme, which launches today (May 20), makes grants of up to £25,000 available to help churches and Christian organisations to connect with children and young people and forge lasting links with families in their area.

An encouraging 88% of churches surveyed said they felt their church offers a welcoming environment for children and young people, but 67% have five or fewer young people in their worshipping community (26% have none) and 45% have five or fewer children (15% have none).

Only 58% of churches offer any activities for 11 to 18 year olds and 41% admit their provision for young people is inadequate. Some 82% run activities for children 0 to 10, but only 58% rate their support for children as good or excellent.

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Sir Philip Mawer, chairman of Allchurches Trust, said: “It’s inspiring to read that 96% of the churches we asked said they would love to run more activities for children and young people if they had all of the right resources and skills, but it is important not to under-estimate the scale of the challenge.

“While our survey uncovered some truly inspiring examples of churches running innovative projects that are addressing a very real need in their communities, it’s clear that many are struggling to run activities at all or are offering support that they feel lacks relevance or is unattractive to local families. Many are hampered by buildings that are not fit for purpose and outdated equipment.

“We hope to help overcome some of these practical problems through our new grants programme. We also aim to share shining examples of projects making a difference and encouraging church growth, so that more churches and Christian organisations feel inspired and confident to help young people in their communities reach their potential, spiritually and in other ways.”

The biggest barrier that churches said they face in running high quality activities are a lack of people to run them (75%) and a lack of young people (59%) and children (52%) attending church, with 44% responding that young people feel the church is not relevant to them. For churches in the most disadvantaged communities, however, top of the list of barriers was lack of funding (73%).

Practical problems are presenting clear hurdles, with 48% of all churches citing lack of funding as a challenge and almost a third saying they lack age appropriate facilities (31%). Some 41% of churches said the biggest help in running more activities would be improvements to make their buildings more accessible to children and young people, while 42% said they would benefit from more electronic equipment, such as computers, tablets and Audio Visual equipment. The biggest help, however, would be younger and more active volunteers (62%).

We will fund between 10% and 80% of the cost of projects, depending on their size and the level of need in the community. Organisations can apply even if they have received a grant from Allchurches in the last two years. For more information or to make an application, please go to Growing Lives