Recently Completed Research

Seeing and sharing what God is doing in mission

Reaching New People

Reaching New People is an initiative of the Diocese of St Albans which explores and supports new ways to reach people who aren’t currently engaged with the Church, and looks at how to make new disciples. The Diocese of St Albans commissioned Church Army’s Research Unit to conduct research to support the development and evaluation of this initiative.

One element of our research involved facilitating lay and ordained leaders to tell their stories of how they are reaching new people. These stories can be found on the Reaching New People: Stories page. Our hope is that by sharing these stories – and the reflections from these leaders about prayerfulness, leadership and discipleship captured in five animations – others will be encouraged to reach new people.

You can watch the animated reflections below:

Deepening Discipleship in Messy Church – Collaborative Research with BRF and the Church of England’s evangelism and Discipleship team

Following the 2019 Playfully Serious mixed-methods research investigating the effectiveness of Messy Church, the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England and the Evangelism and Discipleship Team commissioned more research. This time the research has been collaborative; our team have worked with seconded members of the Messy Church team at the Bible Reading Fellowship to explore the question: How can Messy Church best make disciples?

This research differs from Playfully Serious in its methodology. This is participatory action research. Messy Church leaders themselves have conducted the research with our support. Over an 18-month period, Messy Churches have piloted six approaches to discipleship-making and leaders have reflected together on the effectiveness of their approach.

Research findings are written up in A Voyage of Discovery: Deepening discipleship in Messy Churches and beyond.

A suite of practical resources aimed at helping other Messy Churches find the approach that is right for them is hosted on

To read more about how we designed the research, see Methodology: Facilitating Change Through Research.

Additional resources regarding research design:

A Voyage of Discovery research report cover

Pioneering in Portsmouth

In 2020, the Diocese of Portsmouth asked Church Army’s Research Unit to evaluate their five year Pioneer Project, which involved creating new pioneer posts and a city centre resourcing church, as well as work to promote pioneering across the diocese. Through interviews with pioneers, church leaders and participants of diocesan courses and workshops, we heard different perspectives on approaches to pioneering within the diocese. As well as assessing the overall impact of the project, our Pioneering in Portsmouth report also reflects on the impact and challenges of COVID-19. You can download the report here.

This research built upon our previous work surveying fresh expressions of Church in the Diocese of Portsmouth. We are also engaged in a separate piece of consultancy work for the  diocese, developing a framework to help churches in the diocese collect, report on, and make use of data concerning depth, impact and number.

Pioneer mission in new communities – an evaluation for the Diocese of Oxford

In 2020, the Diocese of Oxford asked Church Army’s Research Unit to carry out an evaluation of eight pioneer pilot projects in areas of new housing.
Through a series of 30 interviews, we captured the insights of pioneers, the experiences of their teams and the understanding of those who oversee them. These have been compiled into a summary report (downloadable here) which describes the experiences of pioneers across varied mission contexts. The report also explores the practical and theological learning of practitioners and considers the factors affecting the sustainability of pioneering projects.

Pioneering Pieces – an evaluation of the Church of Scotland’s Pioneer Pilot Project

This piece of external research work was conducted by Church Army’s Research Unit between 2019 and 2020. We were asked to evaluate the Church of Scotland’s five-year Pioneer Pilot Project at the three-year stage, assess its impact and distil the learning for the Church of Scotland as a whole. We are grateful to all those involved in the pilot who took time to offer their reflections. We hope this evaluation will encourage and benefit all those involved in pioneering in the Church of Scotland.

Entitled Pioneering Pieces, the full report can be downloaded here. The six-page summary report can be downloaded here.

Mission Under Lockdown – two reports on Church Army mission during the COVID-19 pandemic

How have Church Army evangelists and others in the Church Army family been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? In June 2020, Church Army’s Research Unit produced two reports to begin to answer this question.

Church Army Centres of Mission – this report summarises the findings of interviews with evangelists from 21 Centres of Mission conducted during April and May 2020. It describes how the COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting Centres of Mission and the different ways in which Centres of Mission are responding. You can read the report here.

Church Army Mission Community and Staff – At the start of May 2020, members of the Church Army family were invited to take part in a brief survey about their experiences of ministry under lockdown. This online survey was completed by 75 people, including Church Army staff, evangelists (both active and retired), those in Centres of Mission, and other Mission Community members. This report summaries the findings and responses of this survey. You can read it here.

The Church in Wales – Mission Area mapping and insight resources

In 2020, Church Army’s Research Unit worked with the Church in Wales and the Diocese of St Asaph to develop mapping and insight resources for the diocese’s Mission Areas. Each Mission Area is unique, with distinctive characteristics due to geographical location, demographic make-up and cultural heritage. These characteristics were quantified and brought together using census data and Church in Wales attendance figures to provide fresh insight and understanding of the communities that the diocese is called to serve.

The mapping and insight resources developed can be accessed here.

God at Work – fresh expressions of Church in the Diocese of Leicester 

These reports represent the culmination of more than eight years of research on fresh expressions of Church undertaken in partnership with the Diocese of Leicester. The results of a 2019 survey of fresh expressions in the diocese are analysed and brought into dialogue with the results of previous research conducted since 2011.

The summary report God at Work, co-written with the diocese  (downloadable here), outlines the key lessons learned.

A longer report, Fresh Expressions of Church in the Diocese of Leicester (downloadable here), explores the findings in more depth.

Playfully Serious – investigating the effectiveness of Messy Church

Playfully Serious, which was published in February 2019, is the result of a two-year research project by Church Army’s Research Unit, commissioned by the Archbishops’ Council. It confirms the serious effectiveness of Messy Church.

It is not ‘just a bit of fun’, as some critics persist in believing. Rather, Messy Church is reaching people who weren’t previously attending church, growing disciples and modelling new patterns of leadership, and it is doing so across a wide range of economic and social contexts.

You can find out more here.

Diocese of Carlisle – an audit of fresh expressions of Church

This report details an audit of the fresh expressions of Church (fxC) carried out by Church Army’s Research Unit. The diocesan process for monitoring fxC, including Network Youth Churches (NYC), was reviewed and the validity of the figures obtained by the diocese was investigated. The parish locations of diocesan initiatives were also briefly examined. Data collection took place in April 2019.

The Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson (Bishop of Penrith) to Church Army’s Research Unit: “We really appreciated both the professionalism and thoroughness of the report, and also the way in which you made every effort to ‘get the diocese and its work. We’re sure that this report will go a long way towards assisting us as we think through how to take forward the work of God through our various expressions of church in the coming months and years.”

A Bigger Difference – a report on social action and church growth in the Diocese of Liverpool

The Diocese of Liverpool is asking God for a Bigger Church, so it can make a Bigger Difference – more people knowing Jesus, more justice in the world.

Engaging with church leaders and parishioners, this research explores how Bigger Difference social action – Christians undertaking social action, enabling more people to know Jesus and pursuing more justice in the world – is happening within the diocese and considers how this relates to both the numerical and spiritual growth of the Church in the Diocese of Liverpool.

Click here for a PDF copy of the report.

Videos related to A Bigger Difference:

Dioceses of Meath and Kildare – strategic review

During 2018, we assisted the Church of Ireland Dioceses of Meath and Kildare with a strategic review. The aims of this project were:

  • Creating a conversation within the dioceses that creates hopes and sense of possibility for the future
  • Providing a credible basis for an acceptable action plan moving forward

The methods used included a literature and data review, an online stakeholder survey and on-site consultancy visits. The project was completed in September 2018.

A news item about the review, plus a link to download the Together in God’s Love report, can be found on the Meath and Kildare Dioceses website here.

“Not as difficult as you think”: Mission with young adults

In 2017, the Church of England asked Church Army’s Research Unit to find out about successful, unsuccessful, and unproven mission with young adults (aged 18 to 30) which has taken place within the Church of England, other denominations, or through para-church groups.

In researching this topic, we completed 12 case studies of different approaches to mission and evangelism with non-churched young adults.

The results were both encouraging and challenging. They can be found on their own mini-website, along with videos, recommendations and a summary report – this will be available soon!

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