New report shows the connections between spiritual growth & caring for people in poverty.
Four out of five Christians (87%) have taken action on poverty in the past year and see it as a core part of discipleship, according to a new nationwide poll of 2,958 UK adults by research firm Barna Group for Christian relief and development agency Tearfund.
Christians Who Make a Difference, a report launched today at The Justice Conference looks at the connections between Christian beliefs, practices and priorities and a multi-dimensional response to poverty.
The research shows that Christians are more likely to donate to charity (73% Christians vs. 63% all other UK adults) and to give food, clothing, furniture or other resources to someone in need (49% Christians vs. 40% all other UK adults). Christians are also more likely to make significant consumer lifestyle changes (39% Christians vs. 35% all other UK adults) such as recycling, reducing meat consumption and using a green energy provider. Among those who regularly attend church (at least once a month), the percentages are even higher.
The new findings also reveal that growing up in a Christian household is a significant predictor of later poverty activism, even among adults who don’t attend church now. Six out of ten poverty activists (62%) grew up in a home where Christianity was practised regularly, even though they no longer attend church. This underscores the long-term impact that religious upbringing has on caring for the poor, even without current involvement in a church.
Christians who prioritise serving people in poverty also prioritise spiritual practises like reading the Bible and praying. Two-thirds say reading the Bible, for example, is essential for growing their faith, compared to half of regular churchgoers who don’t serve people in poverty (67% vs. 46%).
The data also shows that there are a minority of people whose care for people in poverty is an essential and holistic aspect of their lives. One in 20 UK adults respond to extreme poverty in all five dimensions: financial giving, praying for those in need, taking personal responsibility, advocating for government policies and making consumer lifestyle changes.
Not all Christians help people in poverty, and not all those who help people in poverty are Christians. But the data examined strongly indicates that, for a significant proportion of those who intentionally care for disadvantaged people, charitable action is motivated by a desire to follow Christ.
Dr. Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund says: “This new research shows that serving those in need and taking care of the whole of God’s creation is not only an essential Christian discipline, but plays an important role in spiritual growth. In the last 20 years the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has halved. An end to extreme poverty is possible - but we must act together, as the Church, united in a whole life response to extreme poverty.”
David Kinnaman, President at Barna Group says: “The crucial question the next generation is asking is not whether the claims of Christianity are true, but does Christianity account for good in people’s lives and in society? Against the grain of popular sentiment, our team keeps uncovering evidence that many Christians are, in fact, a force for good in the world. In the data from this study, we find Christians – and those with a Christian upbringing - prioritising care for and action on behalf of people in poverty. Christians make a difference.”
Other findings from poll include:
- Two fifths (40%) of Christians agree that they should sacrifice their own personal comfort to help others.
- The top five activities that Christians believe help to grow their faith include: praying (57%), being part of a church community (51%), reading the Bible (42%), donating to the poor (42%) and worshipping God through songs (33%).
- Nearly four out of five (79%) regular churchgoers (at least once a month) say that their faith impacts how much they give or donate to others.
- Nearly three quarters (71%) of regular churchgoers feel they must personally take action to alleviate extreme poverty, versus under half (43%) of those who do not attend church regularly or at all.
Notes to editors:
- Poll methodology: Barna Research interviewed 2,958 adults aged 18+ in the UK between 10th and 20th April. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults aged 18+ by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade.
- Taken action on poverty: includes donated money to charity; asked or encouraged others to donate to a charity; talked to friends and family about international development challenges and opportunities; volunteered for a charity; donated resources such as food, clothing or furniture, but not including money, to poor people; and a few other less common actions.
- Christians are those who selected ‘Christian’ from a list of religious affiliations.
- To purchase Christians Who Make a Difference please visit: www.barnaglobal.com/shop
For further information on Tearfund please contact:
Ann Hallam, Tearfund on 020 3906 3146 or 07929 330366
For out of hours media enquiries please call 07710 573749.
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency and a member of the Disasters’ Emergency Committee. Founded in 1968, Tearfund has been working around the world for 50 years responding to disasters and helping lift communities out of poverty. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit www.tearfund.org.
About Barna Group
Barna Group is a research firm dedicated to providing actionable insights on faith and culture, with a particular focus on the Christian church. In its 30-years history, Barna has conducted more than one million interviews in the course of hundreds of studies, and has become a go-to source for organisations that want to better understand a complex and changing world from a faith perspective.
About The Justice Conference
The Justice Conference is a global movement encouraging thousands of Christ-followers to live. Founded in the US in 2010, it now takes place in seven countries around the world, exploring the theology of justice and how we can respond practically to the injustices we see in the world.
For more information on The Justice Conference globally: www.thejusticeconference.com
For more information on The Justice Conference UK: www.thejusticeconference.co.uk