A UK General Election needs to take place some time before 28 January 2025, with many people predicting either a May or October 2024 poll. As this election year approaches, here are six ways that churches and church leaders can prepare for this significant event in the life of our country.
1. Don’t ignore it!
Like them or not, elections matter, and politics matters. Political decisions affect the lives of congregation members, communities and the nation as a whole. Politics is one of the key ways that the implications of our Christian commitment to loving our neighbours and to seeking justice are worked through in the public sphere. And elections are the one time when (almost) everyone is invited to be part of the political process, by making a choice about who to vote for. So for churches, it’s very relevant to be encouraging engagement and participation, and to be helping people to think and pray about the choice they will make.
In the period leading up to elections, for understandable reasons political parties and candidates are particularly keen to listen to and engage with potential voters, so it also provides an important opportunity to raise issues of concern and seek commitments to act.
2. Shape the tone of the debate
It feels like British politics is particularly polarised and fractious at the moment, and that might mean the idea of getting involved is off-putting to many people – including church leaders who don’t want to alienate their members or neighbours. Yet as politics matters so much, we want to encourage the debates around the election to happen in a spirit of respect, kindness, listening and inclusion. Churches can contribute to this, and church leaders in particular have the opportunity to model this kind of approach in their language, preaching, public statements and actions in the months leading up to the election.
3. Call for action on poverty
In recent years, poverty in the UK has become deeper and more entrenched, and the election represents a key opportunity to call attention to this and call for action.
Let’s End Poverty is a new movement that is coming together to build the public and political will to tackle poverty in the UK, and churches are at its heart. It launched last month, and there are various ways to get involved – find out more at www.letsendpoverty.co.uk.
JPIT is also joining with Christian Aid, Church Action on Poverty, the Trussell Trust and others to put together Act on Poverty, a course for small groups, for use in Lent or later in 2024, to help churches gain a deeper understanding of experiences of poverty, both in the UK and globally, and encourage action in the run up to the election. Click here for more details.
4. Raise issues that matter to you
The election period is an opportunity to raise issues of concern in our communities and to our churches. Earlier this year, JPIT published some suggestions for election manifestos, based around our ‘Six Hopes’ themes of poverty, environment, refugees, the economy, peace and politics. These could be used as prompts for discussion and to ask questions of candidates. Find them here, as well as short podcasts on each theme.
5. Plan to host hustings or other meetings with candidates
Churches often work together to host election hustings or other forms of events with candidates, which encourage dialogue, listening, engagement, and the development of good relationships. This can be a valued offering to the community, as well as an opportunity to show hospitality.
Such events can be held in various formats, from an online question time to a ‘People’s Politics’ election meeting where candidates are invited to listen and respond to the experiences of local people. Now is the time to begin thinking about this, especially if you plan to do it as a joint initiative. JPIT is working with ecumenical partners to develop guidance and resources for local churches, which will be available early in the new year.
Note that in many places, constituencies will be changing for the next election, so you may find you are not in the constituency you expect! You can find out how boundaries have changed, and what your new constituency will be here.
As well as holding events for candidates, JPIT also wants to encourage churches to build ongoing relationships with MPs. We are currently preparing to launch our Constituency Action Network, which will support you in doing that. Find out more and register your interest here.
6. Spread the word about voting
To participate in the election, people need to register to vote, and also take a form of photo ID with them. This will be the first General Election where photographic ID is a requirement, and there is a concern that certain groups could be disenfranchised as a result. Churches can help publicise the availability of free Voter Authority Certificates, that need to be applied for in advance. Find more information, and downloadable posters.
Watch this space
Stay in touch with JPIT – through our newsletter or on social media – for news of further resources and initiatives as the election approaches. Each week, be inspired by our weekly podcast ‘Politics in the Pulpit?’, which helps preachers respond to scripture and what’s going on in current affairs through the lens of justice.
Oh, and when the time comes, don’t forget to vote!