Is this our opportunity?

“The church is uniquely positioned right now to facilitate growing connections with the local community.”

So presented Sophie Renton, Managing Director for McCrindle Research, at a recent presentation of the Australia’s Changing Spiritual Climate report. The report, which surveyed 1,000 Australians earlier in 2021, gives us an up to date temperature check of attitudes toward the church, especially in the context of the pandemic.

Generally people are valuing a stronger local community compared to three years earlier. Renton goes on to say, “We have seen through previous studies that it is the desire for the walkable community, the strong local community, a local shopping experience. We are seeing across Australia a return to the local and this is an opportunity for churches in their local context to make a local impact on the people in their local area. If we think historically, you had your post office and your main street, and on your main street across the towns of Australia. And in a way we are almost reverting to those smaller communities where there is an opportunity for the church to be the gathering point to facilitate connection and belonging within that community.”

Local churches are being noticed during the pandemic, with around three in four people saying that churches are making a positive difference to their local community. According to Renton, “the church is uniquely positioned right now to help facilitate growing connections within their local community. It is respected and appreciated.

Of course, there is still plenty more work to do as institutionally churches rate lower than local businesses and schools in rebuilding local communities in a post Covid-19 world. However the encouragement is that one third of people who identify with no religion at all still believe that churches are important to rebuilding community.

Implications for New Communities

Perhaps we don’t need research to tell us what many of us intuit. For a Gospel presence to take root in any community, local churches need to be woven into the very fabric. While there have been many difficulties because of Covid-19, opportunities will abound. We know from this research also that people are more likely to attend a church if they are invited by a friend or a family member. Significantly, a young person (Gen z) is twice as likely than a Baby Boomer. This is a pointer to our future!

Clearly we need strong, vibrant and committed churches living as part of the heart beat of their local communities now, in established areas as well as greenfields. But the foundations need to continue to be laid for those new communities where there will be none, if we do not pray and act today.

To get a full copy of the report and also view the taped presentation, go to City Infield, which is an initiative of social research agency McCrindle