The church networks with a big presence in poor areas

The Church of England is retreating from poorer areas in favour of the rich. That’s according to someone on the inside – the Bishop of Burnley.

So do any church networks or denominations invest the other way around – focusing more heavily in poorer areas?  In the next few blogs I intend to dig out the data that shows who has churches in which areas.

First up, it’s one of the largest Black Majority Church (BMC) networks in the UK, and another denomination that’s possibly one of the most well known.

RCCG  – or to give its full name, The Redeemed Christian Church of God – first started in Nigeria, but analysis shows they now have a strong presence in some of the most deprived parts of this country.

In fact, the more deprived the area, the more likely you will find one of their churches, with 78.1% in the poorer half of the country.

Amazingly, RCCG first started meeting in the UK less than 30 years ago and have grown to more than 800 churches. That’s the equivalent of a new church opening every two weeks, every year, over three decades.

The spectacular growth of RCCG’s UK church network has much in common with supermarket chain Aldi. Both arrived in the UK at similar times (Aldi in 1990, RCCG in 1988) and both have grown to similar sizes – Aldi opened its 700th store earlier this year.

rccg v aldi

The Salvation Army is another major denomination but has fewer churches, with 664 currently listed on their website. Started in 1865, the Salvation Army may not be enjoying the same growth rate of RCCG, but they are located in very similar areas – 78.7% are in the poorer half of the country.

And with an extra 123 years under their belt, the Salvation Army churches are becoming more evenly spread, with a presence in many areas quite different to the East End of London, where it all began.

We don’t have data on the size of the churches or their effectiveness in reaching local communities, but their position among the poor is definitely something to be celebrated.


The information in the chart is based on available postcode locations of churches in England and Scotland as published on the RCCG and Salvation Army websites and their respective Decile positions (ranking 1-10, where 1 is most deprived) in the Indices of Multiple Deprivation.



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