The Society was founded to encourage Christian education and the production and distribution of Christian literature. SPCK has always sought to find ways to communicate the basic principles of the Christian faith to a wider audience, both in Britain and overseas. A related Scottish society was founded in 1709. It sent missions to Scotland's Highlands, and a handful to Indians in the American colonies.
In its first two hundred years, the Society founded many charity schools for poor children in the 7 to 11 age group. It is from these schools that the modern concept of primary and secondary education has grown. It was also an early provider of teacher training. SPCK continues to support education in the UK by provide free assembly resources via its website.
Thomas Bray believed passionately in the power of the printed word and from its earliest days SPCK commissioned tracts and pamphlets, making it the third oldest publishing house in England. (Only the Oxford and Cambridge University Press have existed longer.)
Throughout the eighteenth century SPCK was by far the largest producer of Christian literature in Britain. The range of its output was considerable—from pamphlets aimed at specific groups such as farmers, prisoners, soldiers, seamen, servants and slave-owners, to more general works on subjects such as baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion, the Prayer Book and private devotion. Increasingly, more substantial books were also published, both on Christian subjects and, from the 1830s onwards, on general educational topics as well. At present, key authors for SPCK include Anglican New Testament Scholar N. T. Wright, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Paula Gooder, and Alister McGrath. Recent exciting additions to SPCK's list include Guvna B, and Ben Cooley, founder of Hope for Justice.
SPCK's publishing team currently produces around 80 titles per year, for audiences from a wide range of Christian traditions and none. Books range from the academic to the popular, from devotional literature and works on spirituality to books addressing contemporary issues in the Church and society. SPCK also fundraises for and project manages a number of charitable programs, including books for prisoners via Diffusion, and other forms of mission. Recent publishing innovations include the launch of a fiction imprint, Marylebone House, in 2014, and a move to support the existence of InterVarsity Press UK (IVP) in 2015/16.