Pentecostal churches most likely to be in 'direct contact' with First Nations
A National Church Life Survey (NCLS) report on engagement with the First Nations peoples found that Pentecostal churches are most likely to have a direct relationship with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. Local church people responding to an NCLS survey showed that 48% of Pentecostals said their congregation had a direct connection, compared to 84% of “Mainstream Protestants” who reported no direct connection.
“Geography also appears to play its part with 38% of rural congregations reporting the existence of a direct relationship (compared with 20% of urban churches and 20% of regional churches),” the NCLS reported. “It is of interest that those churches with the longest presence in Australia were least likely to have a direct relationship, with 83% of local churches which were founded before 1900 reporting no relationship.”
Given a list of specific different types of acknowledgement of or engagement such as Sorry Day or NAIDOC Week, Catholic parishes had a strong result: some 68% indicated at least one of the 10 ways of engagement, including special services/events (46% of parishes) and Aboriginal art in the parish building (26%).
The current NCLS survey which will update these figures (and hopefully show stronger engagement) has been extended due to Covid until February. Details of how to get your church involved are here). The figures in this story are from the NCLS’s 2016 Operations Survey, published in 2018.
A key finding the NCLS reported was “When asked to describe the local church’s current position with regard to ministry with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, 40% had ‘limited/no opportunity in our area for this type of ministry.’ However, it is interesting to note that 22% reported current involvement or taking first steps and a further 14% were open to involvement in the next two years.”
The current NCLS survey will tell us if this aspiration has been realised.