What types of social services do local churches provide?

Amongst a wide range of services, most common are visitation and emergency relief

The 2021 National Church Life Survey asked local churches what social services or social action activities they had provided or run in the last 12 months. We discovered that churches provided a wide range of services. Most common are visitation programs, emergency relief, as well as chaplaincy and counselling services.

Amongst a wide array of services reported by local churches, some activities are more common than others, according to results from the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) completed by churches in late 2021 and early 2022. 

The top 2 social services offered by churches in their communities, reported by around half of churches, are visiting programs in prisons and hospitals, to local church attenders etc., and emergency relief or material assistance (49% and 48% respectively). 

The survey of churches across more than 20 denominations also reveals that just under a quarter of churches say they provide chaplaincy in prisons, hospitals, schools, SES and sport (24%), and counselling services e.g. marriage or parenting counselling (23%).

Less common, but still reported by around one in 10 churches, are aged care services, migrant support activities, accommodation services, and political or social justice activities (~8-11%). 

Other activities present amongst a small proportion of churches include activities for the unemployed, community development or resident action groups, environmental activities, child and youth support, care for the disabled, schoolies programs, and childcare or preschools (each of these provided by 4-6% of churches).

In comparison, two in 10 churches say they don't run any such activities.

A full list of activities is provided below.



Noting the context for these figures is important, as many churches were experiencing lockdowns and social isolation measures during the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2021 and into 2022.  While some churches were permitted to continue running their social services as recognised essential services, many church programs and activities would have been curtailed during the time they completed the survey. However the results still show a wide range of social services offered by local churches.

Data Sources:

2021 National Church Life Survey, Church Census, by NCLS Research (n=3,385 local churches)

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