Social action is the future of churches, says Demos

  • Holy Alliances, a new report by think tank Demos, has found that churches are nearly four times as likely to partner with non-faith voluntary organisations (23%) than businesses (6%) to tackle local issues.
  • The report, funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, found that poverty (32%) was the most common challenge addressed by these partnerships.
  • Church-secular partnerships have had a significant positive impact for churches, unlocking resources and boosting the impact the social action has on the community.



New research, published today [3 September] by Demos, shows that as a result of austerity, more churches are partnering with non-faith voluntary organisations to tackle local issues such as poverty, mental health and loneliness.

The report, based on a survey of 120 church leaders, 10 expert interviews and 12 case study interviews, reveals that churches are almost four times as likely to partner with non-faith voluntary organisations (23%) than businesses (6%) to tackle these challenges.

Research shows that partnership working has led to a number of benefits including unlocking resources and funding, boosting impact, administrative support and assistance in targeting the right group.

Whilst there are a number of positive outcomes from church-secular partnerships, the report also highlights some difficulties, including a fear of the religious motivation of church volunteers from secular partners, which could lead to a lack of trust.

The report is calling for local authorities to seek to address any practical barriers to partnership working between churchers and non-Christian groups, such as making funding for social action projects more accessible to churches.

Holy Alliances has also made a number of other recommendations, including the discouragement of blanket policies against working with faith groups, and for local authorities to build on the good work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society and adopt their own version of the Faith Covenant.

Commenting on the report, Sacha Hilhorst, Senior Researcher at Demos and Holy Alliances coauthor said: 

“Over the past decade, we have witnessed a boom in church social action. Meanwhile, more and more churches partner with non-Christian organisations to amplify their work. We wanted to understand what that meant for social action and for churches themselves.

As it turns out, it is an overwhelmingly positive experience for the vast majority, with tangible benefits such as unlocking access to funding, better access to the target group and more opportunities to scale up impact.”

David Barclay, co-author of the report and Partner at The Good Faith Partnership, has said:

“’Broker organisations’, such as the Trussell Trust, that can mediate between churches and secular partners are crucial in unlocking the unique local and relational capital of churches to tackle social issues at scale. If the Government are serious about tackling issues such as loneliness then they would be wise to invest in such organisations.”




Media Contact       

Josh Tapper, Communications Officer, Demos

Phone:  020 3878 3955 | 07535748224 (out of hours)

Email: [email protected]

About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. 

About the Sir Halley Stewart Trust

The Sir Halley Stewart Trust is a grant-giving foundation established by Sir Halley Stewart in 1924, which supports innovative and pioneering Social, Medical and Religious projects, to enable human flourishing and to prevent suffering.