Under-fives key to significant church growth
New research shows that young families with children under five could be a vital element for church growth.
The Talking Toddlers report, using research by Savanta ComRes*, released on Monday 18 May, shows that 74% of all parents with children under the age of five have attended a church-run activity in the past year.
This new research was commissioned by HOPE Together, the Church of England, and the Evangelical Alliance to highlight the potential for sustained church growth if the church nurtures the faith of under-fives and their parents. Download a summary of the research here.
Talking Toddlers webinar
A webinar to discuss the findings of the report was held on 26th June 2020.
Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, HOPE Assistant Director Introducing the Talking Toddlers research
Talking Toddlers research origins
In the 2017 Mapping Practising Christians research, commissioned by HOPE Together and the Church of England, 40% of practising Christians said that they came to faith before the age of five. In fact, of all generations, the under-fives were the generation where the church has the biggest impact. This statistic led to the commissioning of our Talking Toddlers research.
Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, assistant director of HOPE Together said of the Talking Toddlers report, ‘We so often hear about an aging church, but here is something new – very young church. Can the church reach a generation of under-fives and their parents? Could they be the missing link for church growth?
‘The church has the most extraordinary reach and a huge opportunity to help a generation begin in faith if they start with the under-fives and their parents – they are already in touch with us, many are open and questioning and the opportunity is now.’
74% of parents have contact with a church
The Talking Toddlers research shows that churches are already in contact with nearly three-quarters of all parents of under-fives in Great Britain:
74% of all parents with children under the age of five have attended a church activity in the past 12 months
12% of all parents of under-fives are practising Christians, double the number of practising Christians in the population
62% of all parents of under-fives are not active Christians, but they have attended a church activity for this age group in the past year
Over half of these parents, 55%, say that they have explored their own beliefs because of attending these activities
Only 25% of all parents of children aged 0-4 are currently not in contact with a church, but 35% of them would welcome an invite to a church-led activity for them and their children
Dr Jordan-Wolf said, ‘I was praying at the age of three and singing my own worship songs. My hope is that the church will see the incredible opportunity it has to help as many under-fives as possible to experience faith for themselves.’
She added, ‘The opportunity to turn round decline in the church might be right in front of us – a long-term strategy starting with the very young.’
Rachael Heffer, head of mission for the Evangelical Alliance said, ‘This research offers a real challenge and opportunity for church leaders to prioritise mission and ministry amongst the very young and to keep the Christian distinctiveness high within our groups geared to families of the under fives.’
Revd Canon David Male, Director of Evangelism and Discipleship for the Church of England, said, ‘This important research offers complimentary data to the ‘The Toddler Group Research’ in 2017 and should ensure that every church leader is considering how they are helping faith to grow both for parents and their children.’
A report on the research will be available in July from the HOPE Shop.
How can toddler groups connect online? Here’s an example below from Katie Wilson, Belfast City Vineyard children's pastor.
What’s the secret to a thriving toddler group? The Evangelical Alliance have resources to help on their website.
* Savanta ComRes interviewed 1182 British parents of children aged 0-4 years old via an online (CAWI) survey between 6 - 28 February 2020. Data from the main sample have been weighted by gender, age and region to be representative of parents with children under 5, at a GB level. Further booster interviews were employed to explore in detail three key groups of parents: Fringe parents, Active Christian parents, and Unreached parents. Fringe parents are defined as parents who attended at least one activity for children organised by a church group or taking place in a church in the last 12 months; boosted sample size of Fringe parents is 1020. Active Christian parents are those who define as Christian, who engage weekly with the Bible / prayer and attend the church monthly, and who attend at least one activity for children organised by a church group or taking place in a church; boosted sample size of Active Christian parents is 202. Unreached parents are those parents who did not attend any activity for children organised by a church group or taking place in a church in the last 12 months; boosted sample size of Unreached parents is 309. These three boosted parent groups are reported in separate, unweighted data tables.