New Churches in the North East

The Project

New Churches in the North East is a research project conducted in 2014-15 by the Centre for Church Growth Research, based at Cranmer Hall, part of St Johns College, Durham University.  The project is a survey of new churches which have arisen since 1980 across the North East region of England. The New Churches in the North East report can be accessed here. Hard copies of the report are available from Val Strickland who can be contacted on:

Using a strict definition of what counts as ‘a new church’, the project has uncovered 125 new churches in the North East whose combined usual Sunday attendance is 12,000 people. In two thirds of these new churches a significant proportion of worshippers come from black or minority ethnic communities.

There has been considerable church decline in the North East in recent decades, but significant church growth is happening as well. The research shows that current thinking on secularisation tends to overstate decline and gives insights into how wider society and the Christian church in the North East have changed markedly in the last 35 years.


Commendations by Senior Scholars

New Churches in the North East has been commended by a range of senior scholars. Professor Grace Davie, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Exeter comments:

‘New churches’ are an important element in the current debate about religion in Britain, a field in which the detail matters.  New Churches in the North East is full of such detail, with respect to both the North East itself and to the very varied churches that have established themselves there in recent decades.  I recommend it warmly to anyone with an interest in the religious life of the region and indeed the country as a whole.

Professor Gary Craig, from the School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University notes the report’s work in connection with ethnicity:

At a time when most discussion about the Christian church suggests that it is in terminal decline, this detailed study of one region demonstrates that a process of growth is occurring somewhat ‘under the radar’. What is particularly interesting is that, pace much contemporary debate about migrants, much of this growth is driven by ethnic minorities either creating new churches or contributing substantially to the growth of others. This is yet another positive contribution made by ethnic minorities in the region which has been overlooked in the often-hostile political and media commentary to date.

Dr Matthew Guest, Reader in the Sociology of Religion, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University notes:

All too often, studies of church growth or decline focus on the national picture while overlooking important regional variations. The New Churches in the North East report makes a valuable contribution to our understanding by taking one such region and charting the realities of church life using fresh evidence. It frames the emergence of a range of innovative churches: some thriving, many challenging common assumptions about Christianity in this part of the UK.

Dr Peter Brierley of Brierley Consultancy notes:

This is a very useful study of the church life in one English Region, and could well serve as a model for like research in other Regions.  It is especially good that it focuses on the growth of the non-white ethnic groupings in Britain (the BME dimension) as these are increasingly becoming an important part of the ecclesiastical landscape, and likely to become an even more major element in the future.


An Executive Summary of New Churches in the North East 

The seven main findings are as follows:

  • 125 new churches have been founded in the North East of England between 1980 and 2015 – based on a strict definition of what counts as a ‘new church’.[1]
  • The usual Sunday attendance of these churches is around 12,000 people of all ages.
  • Of the 12,000 people who usually attend Sunday worship at new churches in the North East, around 2,500 are under the age of 16.
  • The new churches baptised in the region of 1,000 people (children and adults) in the past twelve months.
  • Of the 125 new churches, 47 congregations are ones where the majority are drawn from black and minority ethnic communities. A further 37 new churches have a significant[2] minority of members from black and minority ethnic communities.
  • The largest concentrations of new churches are found in Newcastle, Teesside and Durham City. But new churches have arisen across the North East.
  • 18 of the 125 new churches were founded by the main historic denominations. The majority came from smaller denominations, denominations which have arisen in the UK since 1980 or are independent churches.


Further Information

For further information,  or to consult the authors of the research, contact David Goodhew at:

[1] For a list of the new churches, see Appendix One of this report on pages 89-93. For a definition of what counts as ‘a new church’, see p. 13 of the full report.

[2] ‘Significant’ is defined as meaning that 20%+ of congregations under 100 people are from black and minority ethnic communities , or 20 individuals (or more) in congregations of over 100 people.