Just how many people visit your church? That is the question being asked by the National Churches Trust as it launches the Great Church Visitor Count, a research project which will see 40 digital counters installed at parish churches across England and Wales.
Unlike cathedrals, museums and historic houses, there is no reliable data on the number of people who visit churches each year. At the moment, the only data available are entries recorded in visitor books and of people who attend services. These are thought to seriously underestimate the number of visitors and tourists who visit.
The Great Church Visitor Count will analyse the difference between the number of entries recorded in a church visitor book and the actual number of visitors who pass through the door.
The National Churches Trust has already installed ten counters in churches across the country. A further 30 counters will be installed at churches and chapels in Wales and Herefordshire later in 2019.
Churches and chapels will monitor and record the number of visitors they have over two years, with initial results of the research being released in 2020.
“Our Great Church Visitor Count project will help churches in a number of ways,” says National Churches Trust Chief Executive Claire Walker. “Accurate visitor numbers will help support grant applications from churches for repairs to funders such as the National Heritage Lottery Fund. The project will also help provide hard evidence to local authorities and tourist boards that churches attract many people interested in history and heritage and should be a central part of their tourism offer.”
The Great Church Visitor Count project builds on work carried out in 2018 when the National Churches Trust worked with churches in Lincolnshire. Digital counters were installed in ten of the churches. All recorded a much larger number of visitors on the digital counters than recorded in visitor books. At St Lawrence church, Revesby, installed a counter at its porch entrance. Between 1 September and 31 December 2018 the counter recorded 1,729 visits, compared to only 49 names recorded in the visitor book.
“We did not believe that people were really interested on our church,” stated Revd Andrew Roberts, Rector of St Lawrence’s. “Our doors were closed apart from Sunday services. We were staggered at the number of visitors that approached the church door. This evidence persuaded us to open on a regular basis. ”
If your church wants to take part in the Great Church Visitor Count project contact Linda Patrick