BBC2’s ‘Rev’ – Aunty Beeb subverts stereotypes

(a snapshot of information from our survey into attitudes towards the programme)

Research conducted in April 2014 with our Resonate panel (surveying 1,943 practising Christians across the UK) shows that most Christians see Rev as having a positive perception in the world at large..

63% of all viewers would attend a church led by Rev. Smallbone and 48% would do so without any reservations. Interestingly this figure was much higher amongst women where 55% would attend without reservation. Only one in five said they would definitely not attend.

The survey interviewed 1,943 Christians throughout the UK and found that 65% had watched some of the third (current) series and only 6% had never heard of it. Ordained ministers were nearly 30% more likely to have watched than lay Christians.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had recently said that Rev was  "great viewing, it doesn't depress me quite as much as you might think" and 80% of respondents agreed with him.

Inevitably a few found the programme to be sacrilegious or even blasphemous but we asked a variety of questions about how realistic or acceptable they found the programme and discovered that:

  • Three quarters of respondents found Rev Adam Smallbone to be a believable character
  • 55% were not offended at all by the language
  • 62% felt Adam would have a positive effect on the perception of Christian ministers amongst non-churchgoers

One respondent said "The character Adam demonstrates priesthood with integrity but also humanity." another said "It shows the realities of the job, that it's not an easy ride. Also the heart and concern that vicars have for their community but the lack of resources or support to carry it out."

But many would prefer him to be stronger as 71% said ministers should be prepared to communicate words from God without concern for how they would be perceived by the congregation.

Many of the episodes are built around the problems of resourcing an inner city church today.  One question posed in a recent episode was "How can you be church in a church that can't afford its lighting bill?". Two questions which often arise when discussing resources are, should more wealthy churches support their poorer sisters? and, when the worst comes to the worst should we close churches that don't pay their way and put the money to more fruitful use?.  We found that viewers felt:

18% saw lack of resources as the major problem they faced, but for 42% it was just one problem amongst many. When asked what was the source of most frustration to them, Ministers responded as follows: 

Given all these frustrations and knowing from other research that stress is sometimes a serious problem for clergy we asked whether, "Your church does all it can to provide social and pastoral support for its clergy?" Whilst 54% agreed with this the level of agreement was much higher amongst the laity than the clergy.

Finally , to demonstrate the impact programmes such as this can have, one ordained viewer has said "It is not comfortable to watch, especially the current series, nor is it comfortable being in ministry in today's Church of England. This is an accessible but deeply-perceptive presentation of what ministry can be like in today's C of E, and I am in the process of preparing material for discussion based upon the series." 

For further information contact admin@christian-research.org or call 01793 418388  

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