How do you connect your faith with things that you do in your community? What motivates you to do what you do?
CUF has been looking into these questions in partnership with St Peter's Saltley Trust, the Arthur Rank Centre and the Dioceses of Birmingham and Lichfield as part of a one year research project called Christians in Practice.
What have we been doing?
We asked churches across Birmingham and Lichfield to take a survey of the types of activities that people were involved in, why and who they were. The churches were chosen to include a range of rural and urban churches as well as a range of sizes. Over 1000 people filled in the survey.
In order to get a deeper understanding of what people were doing and why, we carried out interviews with 30 people from churches across Birmingham and Lichfield. This allowed us to ask people what prompted them to start engaging in their communities and what motivated them to continue to do so, as well as how it interacted with the rest of their involvement with church and community.
As we have spoken to people a huge range of motivations and reasons for activity have come up along with incredible ways that people have learnt and grown as a consequence of what they are doing.
For some, what began as intentional service as a Christian has just become a part of 'what I do' as a Christian and for others the reverse has come true as they begin to connect more with the church community through activities. The sense of belonging that people feel, both to the church and the wider community, helps to define the way that individuals see themselves and their role in those places.
What have we found?
The things that motivate people to connect with and continue to engage and serve other people varies from church to church and from individual to individual. Duty, compassion and simply the ability to do so were all recurring themes alongside people who attributed their action directly to their faith, suggesting a sense of calling or a desire to be a witness to others. A singular, pure and easily articulated motivation for any activity is unlikely, yet this range of motives revealed the complex and broad range of things that drew people into engaging with their communities.
The local churches, of which the individuals were part, were able to support people in different ways. Some could offer opportunities for people to begin engaging with communities, provide spaces for those activities to take place and volunteer support from other members of the congregation. Moreover, some of the clergy had spent time teaching on service outside of the church and in these cases people were more easily able to articulate what they were doing and why, as they had been encouraged to think about it, and had been given a framework for doing so, before.
Find out more
If you would like learn more about our findings and the way that people understand their Christian life in practice, you can download the report here.