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What does church growth look like in real life?

Does social action help churches grow?

Do people grow as disciples as they connect with others through social action?

How do local churches help people find greater freedom and agency?

What difference does place make in all of this?

The GRA:CE project is exploring the relationship between social action, discipleship and church growth in the Church of England. Church Urban Fund, Theos, and the Church of England are working in partnership on this three-year research programme to help us better understand how these fit together in practice in communities across the country.

Our project title, GRA:CE, stands for growth, relationships and action in the Church of England. It also serves as a reminder of the message of unconditional love that is at the heart of the Christian faith, and of the way in which we are to treat one another as human beings, each of great and equal value and dignity.

The project combines qualitative and quantitative research to explore the questions above, and more. The first phase of the empirical research involves interviews and participant observation in more than 60 parishes across England, covering a wide diversity of church traditions, contexts, and sizes. This will be followed by survey-based research to identify key trends and patterns at a national level.

Our aim is that the GRA:CE project will provide an enriching combination of learning, challenge, and encouragement for the church, as well as providing robust and insightful evidence about its activities to wider audiences.

You can read more about the emerging stories and key themes in the project blog. If you would like to get in touch about the research please contact Hannah Rich.

The GRA:CE project has been made possible by the generosity of the Sir Halley Stewart Trust and The Hartham Church Charitable Trust.

Video: Sam and Callum’s story is a story of the connection between growth, relationship and social action and what that looks like in individual people’s lives. They first began attending St Andrew’s Church in Crewe after coming to a family friend’s child’s christening there a couple of years ago.

Since then, they have both been confirmed, begun volunteering at the church café and asylum seeker support project and joined the parish pantomime society. In this short film, Sam and Callum describe the difference that the church and their faith has made in their lives.

This is just one of many examples we have heard through the GRA:CE project - watch their story below: