How can the church respond to loneliness? Almost one in five of us say that we feel lonely often or always. One in ten of us say that we have no close friends. Loneliness is having a significant impact on communities across England with 64% of Anglican church leaders saying that loneliness and isolation are significant problems in their areas. More than a third of 18-34 year olds worry about feeling lonely.A recent paper from the Research and Policy team at CUF explores how churches can reach out to those in our country who are lonely and isolated. The paper cites studies which show that loneliness damages our physical and mental health: it can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; it is more damaging than obesity; and increases the risk of developing a disability. Those who are lonely can have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia. The paper, entitled Connecting Communities: The Impact of Loneliness and Opportunities for Churches to Respond, then goes on to show how churches are uniquely placed to support the lonely people in our communities. Their local presence and existing community life make churches a welcoming place for people of all ages and stages of life. The paper provides guidance for church activities based on the latest research; it details how we should understand loneliness and how to most effectively work alongside those who feel lonely. The paper shares three key findings from literature on how best to support those who are lonely. Group based activities are better than one-to-one interventions Activity groups based on mutual interest are more effective than groups that target lonely people Groups are most effective when they allow members to take responsibility for leadership In the paper, church leaders and volunteers can find guidance on how best to facilitate group activities to allow the church to best serve those who feel lonely. Download the report here.