How churchgoers are impacting communities

Some 46% of churchgoers are involved in community groups not connected to church

Some 46% of Australian church attenders (across 20+ denominations) participate in community groups that aren’t connected with their churches, according to the 2021 National Church Life Survey.

When we consider groups focussed on community service, care and welfare, we find 27% of churchgoers are involved in church-based ministries and 22% are involved in such community-based groups not connected to their local church.

The breakdown of these figures from the 2021 National Church Life Survey (2021 NCLS) shows some interesting trends.

In addition to participation in community-based welfare, community service and care (22%), we found a breadth of community participation by church attenders. Of those surveyed, 16% say they are involved in sport, recreation or hobby groups, 6% in social action based groups, 6% in school or youth groups, 9% in ‘other’ groups and 7% in online groups.

Slightly more than half of church attenders are not involved in groups outside their church.


Church attender involvement in community groups not connected to their local church

Community service, care or welfare groups


Social action, justice or lobby group


Sport, recreation or hobby groups


School or youth groups (e.g. P&C, Scouts)


Another kind of group


Online groups or communities


Not involved with such groups


Source: 2021 National Church Life Survey, Attender Survey (n=119,230)


When we look more closely at the figures and compare them over time, we find that there has been a steady increase of church attender involvement in church-based community service, care and welfare groups, from 22% in 2006 to 27% in 2021.

The proportion of churchgoers who participate in community-based groups, not connected to their local church, has remained stable over time at 22%.



“This is significant for several reasons,” says Dr Ruth Powell, Director of NCLS Research. “Healthy churches attend to both their inner life as a community of faith and they also have an outward focus toward the wider community.” 

Dr Powell says the sharp increase in church-based groups offering community service, care and welfare type activities could have an impact on how churches build bridges within their communities. 

“This could be a sign of the Church in mission in new ways.  However, how will it make a difference in the future if the local church hosts such activities, rather than individual Christians being salt and yeast within existing community groups?”  

“Either way,” Dr Powell adds, “Australian society continues to benefit from the church which provides an extraordinary, largely unheralded, voluntary social welfare safety net made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals who give in various ways.”

Data Sources:

2006, 2011, 2016, 2021 National Church Life Surveys, by NCLS Research

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