Getting involved in their local community helps Christians grow in their faith, according to a survey of more than 1,000 churchgoers in the dioceses of Birmingham and Lichfield.
In the study, carried out by St Peters Saltley Trust and Church Urban Fund, 78% of those surveyed said that community engagement activities had helped them grow as a Christian, whilst 65% said that it had helped them understand their faith better.
The Christians In Practice report, launched this week, also shows that for many Christians, community engagement is a way of sharing their faith, with more than two-thirds or respondents saying they sought to represent Christ through their actions when involved in helping others in their community, and 49% saying they looked for opportunities to tell others about their faith when doing so.
Encouragingly, 71% of respondents said they had heard teaching in church which helped them connect their faith to their community involvement. When asked how their church could best support them in this, the most frequent response (44%) was help me to work out what God might be calling me to do. Other common responses were requests for opportunities to pray about community activities during worship services or small group meetings (35%) and for the provision of organised church activities which engage with the community (38%).
As such, the research suggests that there is scope for the development of resources to support individuals and churches in thinking this through together in a very practical way, to help figure out what God is calling them to do and be in their local communities.
Paul Hackwood, Executive Director of Church Urban Fund said: This research shows that community engagement and social action isnt only about churches making a positive difference in their local areas, vital though that is. Its also about getting involved in a way that changes us, and helps Christians to grow in their faith as they connect with and learn from others.
Dr Lindsey Hall, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Lichfield, said: The Christians in Practice research draws out the very rich and varied practice of disciples. It encourages the church to think about ways to provide space to help people reflect on their own practice and make connections between Scripture, faith and engagement in their communities.
The full report can be read here.
Pictured: The Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Right Revd Clive Gregory (left), with report author Simon Foster at today's study launch.