13/04/2012 13:24 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Does Your Family Attend Church? Could Religious Groups Do More To Welcome Families And Young Children?

Mother and child lighting candles at church PA

Thumbing through some years old family snaps of my girls laughing at a countryside picnic, I felt a tinge of regret. Friends on the pictures had been made at church and we have long since stopped going. We soon lost touch with the other children at the party.

Life gets in the way, I think to myself when I ponder why we no longer walk up to our local Methodist chapel once a week. We're simply too busy. We get along at Christmas and on Remembrance Sunday. Otherwise weekends pass in a whirl of household chores, Mum's taxi duties and teenage sleepover fallout.

Even our vicar agrees. When I bump into him in the supermarket he smiles sympathetically as I make my excuses over the frozen peas. "It's okay," he says. "There aren't enough hours in the day."

Of course I'm not alone. But a part of me yearns to go back. We will get there one day. Or perhaps it will be me without my brood.

I don't mind when people I know look at me like I'm weird when I tell them I've been a churchgoer or giggle if I say 'God bless' when I'm that way inclined.


Even if we seldom make it through the doors of a place of worship, I cling on to a belief that treating others as I would like to be treated as my understanding of Christianity professes, is the best way to live.


I'm not one for religious zeal, prejudices that fester between different factions or the intolerance that some extreme believers may display, whatever their creed. I just find going to church an enriching experience and one I'd like to rediscover.

There's no doubt fewer people are swelling the ranks of UK congregations as religion no longer fits in with modern day life.


A study by the Church of England found the number of adults attending church in the UK has fallen by half over the past 40 years. One of the reasons you could arguably say families are staying away is because it isn't viewed as a particularly welcoming place.


Rev Leslie Newton from Bramhall Methodist Church, Stockport and Christ Church, Colshaw, says: "Methodist Church demographics nationally are weighted significantly towards retired age groups. Research is under way to consider what has been termed the Missing Generation - basically folk in their 20s and 30s and how they can be reconnected.

"At our church, we're fortunate that the number of families is on the increase again. This has been the result of concerted effort to ensure that they can feel welcome, and that things are offered in a family friendly way. We have toddler groups, parenting courses, marriage courses, social groups and youth clubs.

"We also try to ensure that there are ways for families to connect with each other informally. Creating an atmosphere where families - with a bit of noise - and lots of different commitments - can feel welcome is the challenge we are committed to face up to.

"We've employed a children's and family worker who works tirelessly at networking and connecting with families, helping them to gain a sense of belonging, and helping to bridge the gap between not knowing what church is like and actually coming along and being involved."

Rev Andrea Roberts, assistant priest at St Thomas's Church in Garstang, Lancashire, says a perceived decline in families attending church may not be all it's cracked up to be.

She says: "I think most people would agree that the overall numbers of people attending church has declined in recent years. However, I'm never convinced by people who say church was packed when they were growing up – sometimes we imagine things in the past were better than they were.

"I think the pattern of church going has changed significantly. Now, many people who would describe themselves as regular worshippers will attend church two or maybe three Sundays out of a month.

"Another change has been that people may attend church on other days than Sundays and consider this to be regular church attendance. Many churches are catering for this by offering services at other times of the week."

"One of the key things I have found is that congregations need to be educated so that they become welcoming.

"Congregations need to recognise that tiny children cannot behave silently throughout a service and people tutting isn't helpful to a parent struggling with a restless toddler.

"Many churches offer a creche for small children during services with Sunday School for the older ones. Many dioceses in the Church of England have started a scheme whereby churches can apply for a Child friendly church award. This has to be reviewed every two years and could be withdrawn if the church has failed to keep it up.

"In my church we have tried to be child friendly in general while also having a service once a month, on Sunday at the regular main service time, which is particularly aimed at children and young families."

For mum-of-three Michelle Pannell, churchgoing is a refreshing and treasured part of family life.
She says: "I go to church because I love it. I feel close to God, I adore worshipping in song and for me it just feels the right thing to do. I enjoy learning and every week I take something new away. It is also a wonderful place to enjoy time with other like-minded people and to meet friends. I only became a Christian nine years ago and have been every week since then.

"I love that my children are learning life skills and important lessons, such as being a good friend, sharing and giving. There is a massive social side too. We've made loads of friends.

Michelle, who blogs at Mummy from the Heart says people have been surprised that she goes to church but that she's open about her faith so now they take and accept it as part of her.

"Some people wish to discuss faith with me as they say they find it interesting and they want to debate or be convinced. I have never had straight out opposition," she adds.

Do you worship with your family regularly? Is it an important part of your lives?
Could churches do more to welcome families in your experience?