The House of Good: Study finds that churches promote the common good
A new report commissioned by a British charity has found that the total social value of the UK’s church buildings is at least £12.4 billion: roughly equal to the total NHS spending in England on mental health in 2018.
The House of Good has highlighted the UK’s increasing reliance on church services including food banks, mental health counselling, and youth groups.
The report was commissioned the National Churches Trust, a British church buildings support charity. It found that churches provided £12.4 billion worth of essential social and economic support to local communities during the 12 months up until May 2020.
The report found that church buildings are a ready-made network of responsive hubs providing increasing levels of care and wellbeing to local communities throughout the UK. The majority of churches found a way to provide community support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report argues that many of their buildings are under threat, as support for essential maintenance and repair from government and other funding bodies dries up.
Claire Walker is the Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, church buildings were placed in the same category as gyms and cinemas and forced to lock down,” she said.
“But for the most vulnerable in our society, the support church buildings offer is not a recreational choice – it’s an essential need – and lockdown served to highlight the increasing reliance of people on this support. These buildings have become our National Help Service. ”
George Stack is the Catholic Archbishop of England and Wales.
“Food Banks, Night Shelters, Lunch Clubs, Food Delivery, Community Centres, Advice and Counselling Sessions and so much else take place on church premises and in church halls,” he said.
“The challenges of maintaining church buildings and their work is greater than ever because of an increasing scarcity of resources.”
The detailed economic study measured the extent of the social and economic value the UK’s 40,300 church buildings provide to the nation and local communities. It examined church buildings open to the public and being used for Christian worship. This includes churches, chapels, meeting houses and church halls, but excludes cathedrals.
The study’s cost benefit analysis shows that for every £1 invested in church buildings there is a Social Return on Investment (SROI) of £3.74 UK.
Ian Robinson is the Alan Walker Lecturer at United Theological College. He told Insights that the report, was “narrow in its focus” and managed to gather “the low hanging fruit.”
“The impact of church goes way beyond,” Dr Robinson said.
He warned, however, that, “it doesn’t necessarily happen in unhealthy churches.”