At the time of this article being written in 2020, churchgoers along with all Australians are practising social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The way churches are practising worship is very different at the moment. While Australians are remaining 'at home', it appears that many people are now participating in digitally based ways of worshipping and exploring faith.
It's in this circumstance that we offer our research findings into Australian church attenders helping non-churchgoers to explore questions about faith.
In the 2016 NCLS, a representative sample of church attenders were asked the question 'In the last 12 months, have you been directly involved in helping any non-churchgoers explore questions about faith?'.
Results reveal that almost half of church attenders (44%) were aware of having helped a person explore questions of faith, with 11% having helped one person, 24% a few people, and 9% several people.
During this period of social distancing measures in Australian communities, anecdotal reports are arising of non-churchgoers participating in online church services, discussion groups or meetings on digital platforms. Having a safe distance in which to explore matters of faith, in a perhaps more anonymous way, might be appealing to some Australians at present. In this time, during 2020, it is still possible for attenders to be helping non-churchgoing friends and relatives to explore questions related to faith, perhaps not in person, but over the phone or online.
One thing the research does show us, is that personal relationship is key to Australians being more receptive to an invitation to activities of spiritual nurture at church. The research provides some starting points for churchgoers to connect with others, including making and maintaining friendships; inviting people who used to attend church; and having fun with friends, food and music. Whether online or in person, these clues for churchgoers to connect with others in the wider community, remain relevant.
See the related article, from the 2019 Australian Community Survey titled, 5 clues to connecting with Australians.
Powell, R. Sterland, S. Pepper, M. and Hancock, N. (2016). 2016 NCLS Attender Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research.
Community research projects explore Australian spirituality, religiosity, wellbeing and social trends