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Finding a church : reasons people give for joining and moving from churches

Wakefield, Gavin (1998) Finding a church : reasons people give for joining and moving from churches. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85984) (KAR id:85984)


This thesis investigates the levels of types of church growth in England in recent years, especially in the church of England, with a view to assessing the value of church planting as a strategy for increasing church attendance.

In order to do this, it was first established that church plants do have a strong tendency to grow. Because there were no published data on the rates of different types of church growth it was then necessary to produce some base line figures, especially on transfer growth rates.

The level of transfer growth was found to be about 50% of all growth in church attendance, slightly lower when assessed by leaders, slighty higher when assessed by church attenders themselves.

Individual churches were then studied, some by using data supplied by church leaders, others in more detail by questionnaires filled in by people attending those churches.

The key conclusion was that the church plants studied have not grown disproportionately by overall transfer growth, but that they have tended to attract more people from other denominations, which makes the transfer growth more noticeable. Their increases in attendance do therefore mean that church attendance has been higher than it would have been without church planting.

Besides providing statistics on the levels of church growth in Wakefield survey enabled the reasons for joining and leaving churches to be studied. It was found that people moving house tended to look for the nearest church, usually of the same denomination; people dissatisfied with an existing church were more concerned about worship, and were much more likely to change denomination; people attending for the first time also looked for the nearest church where they found it to be friendly.

In qualitative interviews all groups spoke of worship and of the importance of good personal contact, but it was the relative order of importance that varies. These results showed that people finding churches had similar reasons to people finding faith. Comparison with previously ignored research from the 1940's showed that these reasons had persisted for at least the last 50 years in England.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85984
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Church attendance; Community; Christianity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:23 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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