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UK churches see surge in interest since lockdown, says new report

by Heather Preston

A new report has revealed that UK churches have seen an increase in people attending services and wanting to learn more about the Christian faith since the lockdown.

The Church Covid Survey, launched by the Evangelical Alliance has polled 694 UK church leaders and 194 faith organisation leaders to explore how the Church has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The study found that 70 per cent of church leaders have seen a rise in the number of people attending church who normally wouldn't. 

EA UK director, Peter Lynas told Premier that online services have allowed a lot of churches to connect with new audiences.

"Somebody once said, there's never been an easier time to sneak in the back door of church. And it really has made it easier for people. There are a lot more men engaging, who might not want to go through the door of a church and also younger people are finding it easier online," he said.

The research also revealed that 59 per cent of church leaders have seen an increase in people wanting to find out more about Christianity, while one in ten church leaders have seen an increase in people making first-time commitments to follow Christ.

Lynas explained that the crisis has lead more people to search for answers to life's big questions: "We saw more people searching for prayer, for church, for Jesus and buying Bibles. We've seen a huge surge in online Alpha courses as well. People are looking for something more in this moment and so many have turned to the church. 

"We're so thankful to hear that many people have made a commitment to follow Jesus in this season," he added.

Another key finding from the study showed that prioritising ministry to non-Christians made a difference to church engagement. Churches that focused on supporting the needs of newcomers were three times more likely to see people express an interest in Jesus and make a decision to become a Christian.

Lynas suggested that having 'welcomers', offering online prayer and following up with visitors after a service were essential for digital church, adding "if you want to see people come to faith, and we see that as a core mission of the church, we need to make it a priority."

Another positive to come out of the research was that almost all UK churches seem to be working to help those in need during the crisis, with 88 per cent of church leaders saying their churches support vulnerable people. Of these churches, 72 per cent are working in partnership with either local authorities, other churches or charities. Northern Ireland was found to be leading the way in its support of frontline staff with over 70 per cent of its churches helping those on the frontline.

Amongst some of the concerns highlighted in the study was the long term economic impact of the crisis on churches and faith organisations. According to the survey, two thirds of churches are concerned about the loss of offering income, with over a quarter concerned about paying staff, while 28 per cent of organisations say they don't have enough in reserve to cover a projected loss of income. 

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