Thinking Anglicans

Statistics for Mission 2017

Updated Thursday to add press reports

The Church of England has published its Statistics for Mission 2017 today. The report can be downloaded here.

Also published today is a report on the Church of England’s digital reach: A year in numbers: 2018 digital report.

In addition there is a press release which is copied below.

Press reports

Madeleine Davies Church Times Could the Christmas effect boost attendance through the year, Bishop asks

Christian Today Mixed picture for CofE in latest attendance figures

Mike Wright The Telegraph Church of England sees regular attendance rise but churchgoers struggle to make traditional Sunday services

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Attendance at Church of England’s Sunday services falls again

Church of England press release

Christmas attendance at highest level for more than a decade

14/11/2018

Attendance at Christmas services in the Church of England is at its highest level for more than a decade, according to new figures published today.

The latest annual Statistics for Mission report shows that while traditional Sunday attendance edged lower in 2017, in line with long-term trends, the numbers attending Christmas services increased by 3.4 per cent to 2.68 million.

It was the fourth successive rise in Christmas congregations since 2013 and the highest figure since 2006. Combined with figures for special services in churches during Advent, including carol services, there were nearly eight million attendances over the festive season.

The Statistics for Mission 2017 were published as #FollowTheStar, the Church of England’s campaign to encourage people to attend Advent and Christmas services this year, was launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Meanwhile separate figures also published today show that the Church of England more than doubled its monthly reach on social media – from 1.2 million in 2017 to 2.44 million this year.

The Church of England’s Advent and Christmas campaign in 2017 was four times bigger than the previous year, with reach rising from 1.5 million to 6.8 million.

And the Church’s Royal Wedding prayer and videos for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were seen more than five million times on social media.

The figures for 2017 show that average Sunday attendance (measured during October 2017) stood at 756,000, down on the previous year in line with long-term trends. Average weekly attendance over October 2017 stood at 895,000.

But the ‘Worshipping Community’ – a measure of those people who regularly attend church – rose slightly in 2017 to 1.14 million people, of whom 20 per cent were aged under 18 years old.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We live in an age of rapid social change affecting all aspects of life – right down to people’s working patterns and how they spend their weekends. It is really striking to see how churches are responding and evolving in the face of that.

“While there’s a downward pattern in Sunday attendance, the fact that Worshipping Community – membership – figures are stable shows that for many people, being part of the Church is more than just a matter of what they do on a Sunday morning.

“We are also reaching more people than ever through social media, providing a Christian presence to those who might not otherwise walk through the door of a church.

“And millions encounter the Church in their daily lives, through its commitment to the most vulnerable from food bank provision to night shelters, lunch clubs and community cafes.”

Notes

  • The annual collection of Statistics for Mission is overseen by the Church of England’s Research and Statistics Unit.
  • Each of the almost 16,000 churches in the Church of England was asked to report figures including the size of their Worshipping Community, attendance at Sunday and midweek services, attendance at Easter and Christmas, and the numbers of baptisms, marriages, and funerals they carried out during the year. Complete data were received from 88% of churches; where data were missing, values were estimated where possible, based on trends from previous years.
  • The Worshipping Community measures the number of people who regularly attend once a month or more. This could include Evensong, or a week day service as well as a Holy Communion service on a Sunday. The Worshipping Community figures have been collected since 2012 and have remained relatively stable over the past four years at around 1.1 million.
  • The Mission Statistics do not include services in prisons, hospitals, schools and military chapels and university chaplaincies.
  • Statistics for Mission figures in most cases include figures from cathedrals; however, the figures for Advent special services do not include cathedral attendances during this period. Full statistics for cathedrals were published last month.
  • 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.
    Reach is defined as the number of people who have seen content on social media. Social media channels include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Kate
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Kate

The thing about Christmas is that the Church shuts up about sin and concentrates on celebration, joy and love: congregations are growing. The other area of growth is uplifting services with plenty of music. The rest of the year the Church is preoccupied with sin: congregations are declining. Even the Eucharistic liturgy is totally preoccupied with sin. I think the Holy Spirit is showing the way if only we have the courage to follow. It is often said that dark is the absence of light. In the same way, I see sin as the absence of love. Why do we… Read more »

PaulWaddington
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PaulWaddington

These figures need to be studied carefully. In my view, the most reliable metric to indicate trends is Average Sunday Attendance. This measure is compiled from the average of four simple counts taken in October. This metric is not highlighted in the press release. Could this be because it indicates a rather depressing downward trend. Taking the C of E as a whole, is indicates a decline of almost 3% in the last year and 12.5% over the past five years. This trend would indicate that Sunday attendance will be half the present level within 25 years (or sooner if… Read more »

Cassandra
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Cassandra

I’m not sure about the implication that increased ‘reach’ via social media = sufficient cause for celebration. The dreaded Impact Agenda in higher education funding asks for reach – how many people saw this website, heard these talks, etc – but also significance – were lives changed and how do you know? Reach on its own is no longer enough there. Those of us on social media see a lot of things but it doesn’t mean we act on what we see.

David Keen
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David Keen

‘Mixed picture’ is somewhere between kind and wildly optimistic. The longer a CofE press release on attendance goes without mentioning Sundays, the worse you know the figures will be. Outside East Anglia, every Diocese is shrinking, with even more alarming falls in childrens membership. The fall in baptisms, weddings and funerals is 25%, 22% and 16% respectively over just 5 years. Kate I’m not sure how many Anglican churches you pop in to but I’m not aware of many which are ‘preoccupied with sin’. And the church in our Deanery which has grown most in recent years is conservative evangelical.… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Please read the report yourselves and come to your own conclusions but here are some points to consider. 1. The report is totally honest about the concept of “Worshipping Community”. To quote: “Keeping track of a church’s Worshipping Community is more challenging than counting attendance at services, and not all churches can report precise numbers. The accuracy of the data has improved in recent years as the concept has become more embedded as an aid to providing good pastoral care; this is an ongoing process, and therefore changes in a church’s Worshipping Community from year to year may reflect changes… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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(Continued) As ever, this is an excellent piece of work by the Research and Statistics Department. But, sadly, the press release does not reflect the actual content of the report. As I have said before, if a Government Minister or Department or public body represented a published statistical release in this way, there would be good grounds for a complaint to the UK Statistics Authority, but the Church of England is not subject to review by that body. It is very disappointing (and indeed could be argued to be unprofessional and even delusional) to put the spin on the figures… Read more »

Mark Hart
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Mark Hart

Thank you, Bernard. I agree entirely. I find it far more depressing that the statistics are published with such blatant spin than that they show continued decline. The worshipping community figures are not reliable enough to draw any conclusions from the change year to year, certainly not the conclusion implied by the Bishop of London that the drop on Sundays is made up by people’s extra involvement in the week. Amazingly, the Telegraph was taken in by the spin and had the headline “Church of England sees regular attendance rise…”. Why does Church House feel that it has to make… Read more »

T Pott
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T Pott

That Christmas figures are the highest for over a decade is due to the methodology used. Christmas counts as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (for this purpose) and it is more than a decade (one year more in fact) since Christmas Day last fell on a Monday. It did so in 2017 and last in 2006. The point is that Christmas Eve was a Sunday and so the regular Sunday morning congregations on December 24th were counted as Christmas. It might be appropriate to exclude regular Sunday services on Christmas Eve, or perhaps count only afternoon or evening and, of… Read more »

Fr Andrew
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Fr Andrew

Are you sure regular Sunday services when Christmas Eve fell on 24th are included in Christmas stats? They certainly haven’t been collected that way in the diocese I work in. Advent 4 Sunday services are not treated as Christmas, even if Advent 4 falls on December 24th, surely?

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

The Note on Table 12 says the Christmas numbers are any service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Also the Survey Form, shown at the end has Question 4 (Advent) relating to Advent Sunday to December 23rd, and Question 5 (Christmas) for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Interesting that your diocese is doing it differently – are you using a diocese-specific data entry form?

PaulWaddington
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PaulWaddington

You are absolutely right with “bordering on fake news”.

David Keen
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David Keen

Some analysis of the stats, for anyone who has trouble sleeping or struggles with over-optimism about the CofE and needs the statistical equivalent of a cold shower https://davidkeen.blogspot.com/2018/11/church-of-england-attendance-stats-2017.html

Simon Sarmiento
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This analysis should be required reading for absolutely everybody 🙂

David Keen
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David Keen

thanks Simon!

T Pott
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T Pott

London’s growth, now apparently over, was only in a context of having been very small earlier and reverting to mean. The figures in the Official Statistics for participation of the Christian population, as opposed to the general population are attempting something important, where Christian is self-defined as an answer to “What is your religion?”. Dioceses with high numbers of Muslims or Hindus might be expected to do worse in terms of general population so ignoring Muslims etc makes some sense. But dioceses such as Liverpool traditionally, and I suspect Ely now, have many Roman Catholics, so Protestant population might be… Read more »