Thinking Anglicans

Latest Church of England statistics

The Church of England released its Statistics for Mission 2016 and this report on its digital reach this week. There is also a press release which is copied below the fold.

Also released this week is Finance Statistics 2015.

Church Times reporters write about these reports:
Madeleine Davies Too few children in too many pews, latest C of E mission statistics warn
Tim Wyatt Church of England reaching more people online than ever before
Tim Wyatt Good news and bad news on parish finances, statistics show

Olivia Rudgard writes for The Telegraph: Church of England reaches more on social media than in services.

Links to statistics for earlier years can be found here.

Church of England reaches more than a million on social media every month
18 October 2017

More than a million people are being reached every month with the Christian message on social media, a year after the Church of England adopted a new digital approach, new figures show.

Videos, podcasts, blogs and images including prayers are reaching an online audience of 1.2 million a month through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, according to the statistics from the Church of England digital project.

During Christmas 1.5 million were reached through the Church’s award-winning #JoyToTheWorld campaign featuring short films. A further 2.5 million were reached during Lent, the season before Easter, through the #LiveLent project.

The report has been released as new Mission Statistics showed average Sunday attendance over October 2016 at Church of England services stood at 780,000 people, a lower figure than in 2015, in line with a long-term trend.

The ‘worshipping community’ of the Church of England, a measure of the number of people who come to church once a month or more, stood at 1.1 million of whom 20% were under 18 years old.

On average, 930,000 people (86% adults, 14% children under 16) attended church services each week in October 2016. (This figure includes mid-week services). A further 180,000 children and adults attended services for schools in churches each week, a rise of 6.2% on last year.

Christmas attendance – on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – rose by 1.4% in 2016 to 2.6 million. During Advent, the season before Christmas, 2.5 million people attended special services for the congregation and local community, and 2.8 million people attended special services for civic organisations and schools.

There were 120,000 baptisms and services of thanksgiving for the gift of a child, 45,000 marriages and services of prayer and dedication after civil marriage and 139,000 Church of England-led funerals.

A one-off question for 2016 showed the majority of churches are open to visitors outside of service times with more than 50% of churches reporting being open to visitors five or more days each week.

The digital campaign has been funded as part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme intended to help the Church of England become a growing church in all places and for all people.

William Nye, Secretary General to the General Synod, said: “At the heart of the mission of the Church of England is a commitment to proclaiming the gospel afresh in each generation.

“This year’s Statistics for Mission provide a sobering reminder of the long-term challenge we face. This challenge is likely to persist for some years ahead. That is why we have established a programme of Renewal and Reform to transform the Church of England to become a growing church in every region and for every generation.

“The figures on digital impact, which we are also releasing today, show one of the ways in which we are doing that, as the online dimension of people’s lives becomes ever more significant. Our challenge is to join up that growing online Church life to the physical community of Church that forms the body of Christ.”

Mike Eastwood, Director of Renewal and Reform for the Church of England, said: “I am encouraged by the success so far of the digital campaign, part of Renewal and Reform. This project has shown how social media can be used to communicate the Christian faith and life to a huge audience outside our church walls, bringing new hope to the communities we serve.

“The figures for mission confirm the urgency of the challenges we face, especially as we want to become a growing church for all people in all places.”

Adrian Harris, Head of Digital Communications for the Church of England said: “As the digital evangelism statistics show, people across the country are engaging with the Church’s digital and social media platforms to grow in faith and find out more about the Christian faith. In a typical month we have a reach of 1.2 million on social media and 1.5 million on our websites.

“We saw 1.5 million reached by our 2016 #JoyToTheWorld Christmas campaign and 2.5 million with #LiveLent. Over the last 12 months we tripled the number of followers on Facebook and Instagram, which indicates that people want to know more of the love of Jesus Christ.

“The three-year digital and social media transformation project is part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme, focused on us being a growing Church for all people and for all places.”

Dr Rachel Jordan, the Church of England’s National Mission and Evangelism Adviser, said: “The Church of England has taken seriously the challenge of ageing congregations and is sharpening its focus and work on the opportunities of reaching new generations in different ways – church growth starts young. Our digital presence has been boosted by the work of the Renewal and Reform programme investing in an excellent team communicating effectively with millions through digital campaigns.”

End

Notes to editors

The three-year digital transformation includes the launch of the new Church of England and A Church Near You websites by the end of 2017. Both sites are being redeveloped to enable Christians to grow in their faith and help bring new people to faith.

In addition, a series of free training courses has been launched for churches on promoting their parishes through social media with more than half of the Church of England 42 dioceses signed up to take part so far.

Reach is defined as the number of people who have seen content on social media.

The Mission Statistics do not include services in prisons, hospitals, schools and military chapels and university chaplaincies.

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Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Professor David Voas, one of the authors of From Anecdote to Evidence, which found that nearly half of churches had fewer than five under-16s” Young people, particularly the middle-classes, take homophobia seriously. Schools make it very clear that it is wrong, and parents of younger children are themselves now of a post-1967 generation which does not have homophobia running through it like the lettering through a stick of rock. Same sex marriage will have been around for most of a teenager’s conscious memory (or civil partnership which, from the perspective of a teenager, is the same thing). So why would… Read more »

Rev Paul
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Rev Paul

“At the heart of the mission of the Church of England is a commitment to proclaiming the gospel afresh in each generation.”
How does an institutionally homophobic organisation proclaim the Gospel to a post-homophobic generation?
Inclusive churches try but it seems an uphill struggle…

Jo
Guest
Jo

IO: while I agree that the CofE’s positions on gay people need a radical overhaul, I think it’s hanging too much on it to think that more than a fraction of young people (or indeed people of any age) give two hoots about what the CofE says about anything. If the CofE were tomorrow to become totally affirming of gay and lesbian couples, and offer to marry in church any couple that desired it, I doubt we’d notice more than a blip in attendance figures unless a whole lot of other work is done.

David Keen
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David Keen

Interested Observer – The research on church leavers in ‘Gone for Good’ by Richter and Francis indicates that for about 1/4 of people the church’s attitude to homosexuality was a factor in them leaving. There are dozens of other factors which score much more highly than this. We’d all love it to be simple, or just a matter of getting the churches teaching ‘right’ (whatever that is) but it isn’t.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Jo, that might be true, but it’s not just homophobia. I recall sitting getting increasingly angry as the vicar at a wedding I was attending ranted (there is no better word) about pre-marital sex. It’s no better now. The official position is that sex before marriage is a sin, and people doing it are bad people. So either 99% of people under 40 are unwelcome in churches (a message they appear to be taking to heart), or the church has policies it doesn’t actually believe in and expect only lip service to. Which is it? It’s 2017. An organisation which… Read more »

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Perhaps the greatest deterrence in attending Church is the requirement to subscribe to religious beliefs. With over 50% of the population claiming to have no religion, it is all the more important that intelligible teaching is conveyed to the unchurched masses. I remember when David Jenkins was bishop of Durham, his orthodox views were presented in such a way as to get the nation talking. People in pubs and clubs were discussing God, Jesus and the resurrection as not being “a conjuring trick with bones”. We have not seen the like since his passing. I had high hopes when Justin… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

First of all, congratulations to Bev Botting and her team for a very professional piece of work. The declines demonstrated in these figures are a continuation of trends that have been going on for many years. The most instructive graph is the pie chart which shows that about 40% of child leavers are simply leaving the church altogether. This is very much in line with other research of David Voas, Linda Woodhead, and others, based on many different surveys and on the census, which indicates that about 40% of children born to mothers who identify as Christian drop out and… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

IO: too right. Wasn’t it you in a previous thread who used the phrase “insufficiently compelling” about why the Christian message had little or no impact on people these days? All the things that the church used to provide say 50 years ago—companionship, solidarity, friendships, a sense of self-worth, comfort, a listening ear—are now to be had from hobby groups, sport, counselling, self-help groups, and more, without having to grovel for being miserable sinners. We have not been good at explaining what sin is in a way that means anything to most people. They don’t see themselves as sinners. They… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I”m not defending homophobia, but I’d just like to point out that the early church in the first three centuries looked very weird to the people around it. Oh, and their sexual ethics were very strict, too. Ladies and gentlemen, the reason modern people are not coming to church is increasingly because they don’t believe Christianity is true. This could be because (a) they aren’t being presented with an intelligent, convincing apologetic, or (b) the lives of Christians don’t look like the Gospel they proclaim, or (c) they haven’t found a genuine experience of God and so have concluded that… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

Tim is right, except for the possibility that it’s (e) none of the above. The appetite for organised religion has been declining inmost Western countries for a very long time. In England probably over a century. It’s a continuous and pretty consistent downward trend, as the statistics show.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“I’d just like to point out that the early church in the first three centuries looked very weird to the people around it.”

So the hope is that a successful politician has a dream of a a chi-rho in the sky, wins a famous military victory and makes Christianity the state religion? Because that’s what it took for those 3rd century Christians to cease to be a fringe cult: the patronage of Constantine. Do you see anything of that scale as being likely?

Russell Dewhurst
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Russell Dewhurst

How reliable are church attendance figures? Has there been any work done (any at all?) to independently verify how accurate the statistical returns are? e.g. Data gatherers sent to random churches in October and doing an independent count, then seeing how closely the figures match the returns? My suspicion is that this has never been done. When I cover services at other churches I often notice that, for example, whole groups of people can be missing, or the figures simply don’t match my own rough count. I officiated at a service a while ago with at least nine or ten… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“I don’t deny that homophobia is a factor, but if it was the main factor driving people away, conservative churches would be empty and liberal churches would be bursting at the seams.” Well said, Tim. Instead, youthful churches tend to be charismatic evangelical setups that, while they usually keep their opposition to homosexuality on the down low, sure ain’t affirming LGBT people. Sanctifying the young’s as misguided as demonizing them. If they were truly driven by conscience, Stonewall wouldn’t have to churn out reports on the appalling levels of homophobia in British schools every few years. Put it like this:… Read more »

Mark Hart
Guest

Thank you, Bernard Silverman. I agree entirely.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Instead, youthful churches tend to be charismatic evangelical setups that, while they usually keep their opposition to homosexuality on the down low, sure ain’t affirming LGBT people.” That is indeed true. However, they appear to think they are the future of Christianity in the UK, and they might even be right. In which case they should be careful what they wish for. They are a few thousand people in each large city, meeting in rented school halls and a very small number of church buildings. That puts organised Christianity on about the same level as club motorsport or northern soul… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

Russell–reasons to take the numbers seriously are: 1. Consistency with the returns for baptisms, weddings and funerals, which are not subject to the possible issues you raise 2. Consistency with other surveys (eg British Social Attitudes) and censuses 3. The long term consistent trends in the data. It is of course possible that the factors you mention may introduce some bias into the figures, but there’s no particular reason to suppose that this would vary substantially from one year to the next (when averaged over all the parishes in the country), and the long-term patterns do not show any evidence… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Russell Dewhurst makes a vital point. In several churches where I’ve served or presided, only actual communicants are recorded in the register. I’ve always made a practice of recording children and adult non-communicants as well, but many don’t. And often you have to rely on the figures given to you, because there’s too much going on for the president to make an accurate count. It would be good to have the figures checked by outside observers now and then. James Byron is right too. Most people are too busy, too preoccupied or too self-absorbed to bother about religion, no matter… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Thank you Stanley and Tim, most people do not know what goes on inside churches and see faith as being nothing more but irrational wishful thinking and superstition. The public awareness of entrenched homophobia is a contributing factor why people don’t want to find out more about the possibility of the Christian God – he doesn’t sound very appealing! But the real questions go much deeper. We need serious answers to the question of why people should be interested in the first place, and if they are, why we believe that what goes on inside our churches represents what Jesus… Read more »

Lavinia Nelder
Guest
Lavinia Nelder

I moved away from the Church of England in my late teens as I wasn’t listened to, like many people of my age. We weren’t considered as having anything interesting to say and what we did say was mainly inconvenient truths. Although I am back in the fold, I can’t see that the Church has moved at all in listening to the laity on many issues. The result is the ‘lost generation’ of people below 50 who left and didn’t bother trying to go back and have decided not to involve their children and subsequent grandchildren in any organized church… Read more »

Russell Dewhurst
Guest
Russell Dewhurst

Bernard Silverman, I was accusing no-one of dishonesty akin to ‘fiddling’ income tax. If a church decided to hold harvest in September and no baptisms in October, there is no dishonesty in reporting the October attendance figures that result from that decision. If those who, in a particular church, are charged with recording figures, and they honestly do not know whether or not (for example) to count those who come in near the end of a service after Sunday school, and they are told “if you count them, it will add to the parish share” that may influence the decision.… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

Russell…thanks for responding. Yes, of course there will be judgement calls, but when averaged out over thousands of parishes they won’t make an appreciable difference to the pattern, especially when comparing over a number of years.

Garry Lovatt
Guest
Garry Lovatt

Erica Baker: “How do we speak to them and persuade them that we might have something meaningful to say about their lives?”

Speak a lot, lot, lot, lot … lot less. Don’t try to persuade, but listen as an equal with great, great respect for their intelligence and powers of observation and understanding. Don’t assume we have anything at all meaningful to say about their lives. Do assume that they have something meaningful to say about our lives. Seek it out and ask for their help.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

‘when averaged out over thousands of parishes they won’t make an appreciable difference to the pattern, especially when comparing over a number of years.’

But if very many churches have mainly Eucharistic services, an don’t count children or non-communicants, it will make a very big difference to the attendance figures – though not to the rate of increase or decrease.

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

Thanks, Janet, for putting it so clearly. It’s the rate of increase/decrease which really matters here. The same is true of many government statistics (e.g. unemployment, crime, or even inflation)—in a certain sense it is not always _exactly_ clear what is being measured, but the key thing is to try to use consistent methodology so that comparisons over time are meaningful. So perhaps we should call it “recorded usual Sunday attendance” or even “reported usual Sunday attendance”…just like “police recorded crime”. I apologise again to Russell if I implied any dishonest motives to anyone. Because of the intrinsic noise in… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Keeping figures artificially low increases the likelihood of a merger at the next vacancy, or stipendiary being replaced by non-stipendiary. Some people would welcome that of course. If anything, I think the tendency is to bump up rather than slim down. I find reporting accurately to be a devil of a job. Wardens etc sometimes forget to enter figures. Worshipping communities are difficult to estimate in this urban environment with comings and goings and returnings, and with the walking wounded who come and go as a refuge from their cardboard boxes. ER figures given to me by ER officers can… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

” If you add up lots of figures each subject to statistical variation, then the relative variation in the overall total is much less.” Conversely, there’s the “emperor of China’s nose” problem. The emperor of China is never seen by the people: is it more accurate to find out how long his nose is by asking one person, or a million people and averaging the result? The central limit theorem is all very well, but it assumes that the measurements have some link to the thing being measured (ie, they are mostly “true value plus or minus error and uncertainty”)… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

I really don’t want to prolong this unnecessarily, but if you use the same methodology ten years running and you see a trend, it’s a trend. The figures for Sunday attendances are not just guesses; they are individual estimates all subject to a bit of noise. Yes, of course there’s often a bit of guesswork and possibly some systematic bias here and there (possibly in different directions) but the trends in these data are very clear and very well established.

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

One interesting point not considered above is this.
Why is it that decline in some Churches is moire acute than in others? I think that I am correct in saying that decline amongst Baptist, Methodist and URC congregations is even more acute than in the CofE. However, the Catholic Church is relatively steady, as are some of the Pentecostal Churches.
It would seem that the more established Protestant denominations are getting something wrong.

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

We all know there is a desperate clergy shortage in the RC Church, which suggests Mr Waddington’s assertion is somewhat rosy. Between 1980 and 2016 attendance in RC Churches dropped from 2064000 to 608000.
https://faithsurvey.co.uk/uk-christianity.html

Mark Hart
Guest

Paul, one significant factor is that it seems well established that the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Churches have gained from immigration more than others because of the background of the immigrants.

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

There seems to be a missing “ml” at the end of the link provided by FrDavidH at 4.56pm on 24 October.

[Ed: thanks, we’ve fixed the link]

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

In 2002 I led a team which undertook a headcount of every person going to church that day in order to check the statistics. It was a hideous logistic exercise and involved hiring a coach to the town we selected in order to take a coach load of students to stand outside churches all day checking every service and recording single and multiple attendances. The result: clergy-reported attendance figures are remarkably accurate. It is all written up in the book The Spiritual Revolution. A similar study was undertaken in the USA by counting cars in church parking lots. Penny Marler… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re: Linda Woodhead, ” the more evangelical the more exaggeration there was.”

I think religious enthusiasm tends to impair one’s math skills. i.e., “….and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts of the Apostles)