Sunday, May 05, 2013

Future of Britain Report: a Tick for the Archbishop and an Opportunity for the Church.

The recently published 'Future of Britain' report backs up Justin Welbys comments about the recession being a depression. Page 1 of the report claims that the results:

“support the suggestion that Britain has entered a depression as far as our outlook and expectations are concerned”

There are all sorts of fascinating things in the report - unfortunately not available online at time of writing, but if you email them for the findings then they seem pretty helpful. Here are a few of them, and some comments...

1. Mindful consumers
One of the effects of the recession has been to make people think again about how and where they spend their money:

We have fallen out with big companies. We no longer trust them, we don’t want to work for them and we’d much rather deal with local, ethical, established community-focussed businesses. (emphasis mine). 

If you swap 'business' for 'organisation', then that sounds like quite an accurate description of a local church, or at least of a local church that's doing a good job. So perhaps there is an opportunity here to reconnect with people. 

2. Flexible working and living
In another section, there are questions about how people see the future, and how jobs, qualifications, residence etc. will shape up. 

-          62% think a job for life is a thing of the past
-          53% see themselves changing jobs every couple of years
-          54% envisage changing where they live in order to get work
-          47% see being self-employed as being more attractive than working for a big company
-          44% think that most jobs in the future will be created by entrepreneurs

This should give churches pause for thought. We are already seeing these trends, but it looks like they are accelerating. How does a 'permanent' church thrive in a place where jobs and residence are temporary? 

A few thoughts:
 - we will have to become much better at welcoming new people into communities, and into churches, and reduce the 'probation' period before folk get the chance to use their gifts and skills in the life of the church
 - with a greater value on autonomy and entrepreneurship, can the church become more enabling, giving people more leadership responsibility and support?
 - is there a place for 'temporary church', pop up congregations which aren't designed to last forever? Do we need a few more tents and a few less temples?

3. Good Company
And finally: part of the survey looked at what sort of businesses we would like to work for, or deal with as customers. The first affects how we look at ministry, the second how we look at outreach:

The Ideal Job: is one that is secure, fun, relaxed, financially rewarding and flexible. Given that we're dealing with a lot of volunteers, so the 'financially rewarding' isn't such a big part, is this how are churches are to work or volunteer for?

The Ideal Company to buy from is one that is ethical, flexible, well known, secure, established and local. I personally think that or church is probably more flexible than it appears, and think we score fairly high across the board. A good local church fits very well the profile of the kind of company/business/organisation that people like to engage with as customers. 

Again, there is an opportunity here. Maybe what is missing is that church engagement with most people is based on our issues rather than theirs. The Bible is packed with teaching about wellbeing, finance, ethics, community, environment etc., all the issues that people say they care about. But how often are we heard talking about these things? Nobody else will do this for us - the media reporting of this report is evidence enough: 2 newspapers used it to sneer at the church, whilst failing to mention that the church is 6 times more trusted than the media. 

the findings are based on interviews with over 2000 adults. 

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