THINKING ANGLICANS

Church of England reports Signs of Growth

Press release from Church House: Signs of Growth:

…Key findings of the research include:

  • Significant Growth Fresh expressions of Church (new congregations and new churches) with around 21,000 people attending in the 10 surveyed areas of the 44 Church of England Dioceses.
  • Significant growth in Cathedrals, especially in weekday attendance. Overall weekly attendance grew by 35% between 2002 and 2012.
  • Declining numbers of children and young people under 16 – nearly half of the churches surveyed had fewer than 5 under 16s.
  • Amalgamations of churches are more likely to decline – the larger the number of churches in the amalgamation, the more likely they are to decline

There is more information in the press release.

Also, the executive summary of the Research is available as a PDF [link altered].

More detail is on this website.

The detailed study of Fresh Expressions can be found at the Church Army website.

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Ann Memmott
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Ann Memmott

Was thought given to disability access? Very strong research on nearly 400 churches over five years shows this is a major factor in whether growth occurs. Doesn’t seem to be mentioned here. Also concerned about the finding that empathy might mean a lack of ability to grow a church. That’s quite something, isn’t it. What exactly does this mean? What form of empathy? http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201108/are-you-empathic-3-types-empathy-and-what-they-mean may help with that question. Are churches led by a fairly non-empathetic leader, but which grow in numbers, a better example of Christianity than the others? How so? Many questions. Anyone got the answers?

stephen Morgan
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stephen Morgan

I’m all for looking on the bright side, but calling a report ‘Signs of Growth,’ after a 9% overall decline in the last decade? I had to search for some time for that killer stat, hidden away in brackets at the end of a paragraph near the weather and the sports.

And I’m sure we’re all delighted the cathedrals are doing well…

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

I don’t think the problems over demographics are hidden: pages 25 to 27 in http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/UserFiles/File/Reports/FromAnecdoteToEvidence1.0.pdf are pretty stark. However, the response is platitudinous: “There is an urgent need to focus on children, young people and their parents and a challenge to identify how the church can best invest in people, programmes and strategies which will encourage young people actively to continue exploring faith.” Leave aside that the pedantic writer needs to be taught that splitting infinitives is fine, especially if it avoids rebarbative phrases like “actively to continue exploring faith” (although actually, that sort of attitude to long-dead shibboleths says… Read more »

Tim Moore
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Tim Moore

Three things stand out for me in the findings report: 1) That there is deemed to be a higher potential for growth in “middle class suburbs” (their words) and areas with larger migrant communities from Christian cultures. The report had much less to say about why lower-income, lower-resourced unchurched working class communities have less potential for numerical growth 2) The overwhelming majority of regular attendees at Cathedrals, who joined in the last five years, are from “churched” backgrounds. I’ve also heard this phenomenon referred to as “parish burnout”. 3) The statistic that Fresh Expressions experiences a 1:2.6 growth ratio derives… Read more »

Fr Paul
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Fr Paul

One of the obstacles to growth in poorer areas is the parish share system, especially in Dioceses that insist that even the smallest and poorest churches bear the full cost of the incumbent. Also the idea of keeping buildings open at all costs even when adding more and more churches to a benefice. A single parish benefice in a relatively well-off area is a luxury most clergy can only dream of. Those in multi-parish benefices with expensive to maintain buildings and ageing congregations are almost inevitably going to struggle. Well heeled and well resourced Cathedrals almost always thrive at the… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

The church’s institutional bigotry undoubtedly plays its part, Interested Observer, and so too does the rise of consumerism and the welfare state. Put simply, the church has a lot more competition, and its rivals have cleaned its clock. Evolution at work. I’ve reached the hard conclusion that the church’s bigotry won’t be stopped until it reaches crisis point. The internal opposition is too demoralized and accommodating for anything else. For things to get better, they must first get worse. I’d advise anyone likely to be affected personally to stay well clear. This is not a safe space. As to the… Read more »

Concerned Anglican
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Concerned Anglican

There isn’t much to boast about in increased cathedral attendances. Has no-one read Grace Davie the sociologist and writer on ‘believing without belonging’? This is exactly what happens with the majority of cathedral congregations where people drop in for a religious experience and then go away again. It’s much harder in the parishes, especially the non-suburban ones where every new member has to be earned and struggled for. On this matter, once again Justin Welby has shot from the hip when he, without caveat, proclaimed (as reported in the Church Times early in January) that growing congregations were the result… Read more »

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

From my perspective, we simply need to get out of denial and into reality. And the conference today hit the low notes as well as the high notes, and asked real questions. Someone said to me (and Churchill comes to mind at this point) – it isn’t the beginning, it’s the start of the beginning. There are grounds for optimism, but the tendency to corporate denial is not one of them.

James Byron
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James Byron

“The real challenge, as yet unaddressed, is what to do about the onward march of a secular humanism that wants nothing to do with a Church that is persistently negative in its proclamations.” Why “do” anything about it? It appeals to a different market. It’s all about the market, now. Those who want religious experience can go to a concert, listen to an MP3 of their choosing, fire up the incense and read something from the Mind, Body, Spirit section. The part of the church that works, charismatic evangelicalism, combines cultural accessibility with emotional appeal and certainty. Style matters at… Read more »

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Two letters in the Church Times this morning offer different perspectives to this subject. One, from Bob Hopkins offer hard statistical evidence to correct misinformation in the Bishop of Stepney’s article of growth and fresh expressions. It begs the question as to why we in the CofE manages to distort actual good news when we have some and why our instinct is to treat it with suspicion. There is something here to be grateful for – and people to honour who are enabling it. On another level, a second letter cautions against the use of church growth/numbers as automatic evidence… Read more »

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Personally, having been at the event yesterday, I rejoiced at a church moving from denial to facing the truth, and at the professional (statistical and methodological) integrity and competence of the researchers. There were many issues – not least a fairly constant critique of data quality. The Church Army Group, for example, did their best to identify fresh expressions of church, but on their criteria excluded more than half the candidate examples from their coverage. I mention that because the Church Army website has a full report rather than the executive summary – read what they did. What I hope… Read more »

useful in parts
Guest

i attended the conference on some of the research this week and i hope this post

http://usefulinparts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/10-insights-on-church-growth-from.html

usefully summarises not only what the published summary of the research says but also adds some of the comments made by those presenting and answering questions at the conference

Father David
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Father David

Has this survey on Church Growth made any connection between the introduction of modern liturgies and the decline in the number of people attending church? For it seems to me that the two are not unrelated. With the widespread abolition of Thou, Thine, Thy language we have lost a great deal of the majesty and the mystery of worship and in the process we have lost vast numbers from the pews.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I think the Bishop of Stepney has raised the most intelligent points in this recent focus on “growth”. It does not surprise me at all that comfortable middle-class suburban citizens would feel comfortable in comfortable middle-class suburban clubs, er, I mean churches. Even in many of those, though, there is a shortfall of younger people. If people are looking for ‘culture’ which reflects their own privileges and security, then yes, some churches may provide that, and you create a sort of social where you can meet up with like-minded friends. But I’m not sure that that privilege, comfort and security… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Next they’ll be telling us that where there are good vicars churches will grow! Whatever next?