Thinking Anglicans

Statistics for Mission 2021 published

The Church of England has released its Statistics for Mission 2021 and the following press release. The annual Statistics for Mission return collects attendance and participation information from across the Church of England. Also available is an excel file of detailed diocesan figures. Statistics for earlier years are available here.

Statistics for Mission 2021 published
06/12/2022

Attendance at Church of England parishes rose sharply last year compared to 2020, but continued to be affected by Covid measures, new statistics from the Church of England show.

Average weekly attendance, which includes Sundays and midweek attendance, grew to 605,000 in 2021 compared to 345,000 in 2020. But it was lower than in 2019 when average weekly attendance stood at 854,000 people.

The number of baptisms and weddings grew in 2021 compared to 2020, with 26,500 marriages and services of prayer and dedication after civil marriage and 55,200 baptisms or thanksgiving services for a child.

Many churches continued to provide ‘church at home’ services in 2021, offered online, by phone, post, email, and other means amid a range of Covid restrictions.

It comes as separate figures show the number of people praying online has continued to grow sharply over the past year with downloads of the Church of England’s Daily Prayer audio at 3.2 million so far in 2022 – 62% higher than 2021 when it was launched. Total downloads now stand at 5.2 million.

Daily Prayer audio – across the Daily Prayer podcast and app – has now reached more than 1.1 million unique listeners.

Meanwhile, figures from the Church of England’s digital channels show that social media content – prayers, Bible verses, reflection content, good news stories and encouragement – have been seen more than 65 million times this year so far.

This amounts to approximately 1.3 million impressions per week with content seen roughly 190,000 times a day.

And the Church of England’s national online service averages around 150,000 views a week with an average of 300 written comments a week from regular online worshipping communities.

Dr Ken Eames, author of the Statistics for Mission 2021 report, from the Church of England’s Data Analysis team, said: “2021 was another year of Covid-related disruption for churches, as the figures in this report show.

“The figures from 2020 and 2021 describe the extraordinary times that churches and their communities have been through and need to be understood in that context.

“My expectation is that we will see a further return of worshippers to churches in 2022.”

In his summary to the report, he remarks that clergy, lay leaders and congregations had shown an “impressive and encouraging” adaptability throughout an uncertain year that was still affected by Covid restrictions.

The summary adds: “The pandemic continued to have an impact on the life of the Church of England, with some churches being closed for worship for parts of 2021 and some members of congregations continuing not to attend in-person services. It would be very surprising, therefore, if Church of England attendance and participation in 2021 returned to their pre-pandemic levels.

“This report should be treated as a summary of another anomalous year, indicating the extent to which things have ‘bounced back’ but noting that further bouncing back is expected.”

Read the full report: Statistics for Mission 2021 | The Church of England

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Sam Norton
1 year ago

Come on David Keen, need your commentary on the continuing plunge down the cliff-face….

David Keen
Reply to  Sam Norton
1 year ago

Thanks Sam, all in good time. Its my busy time of year, don’t you know.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 year ago

I hear that footfall in Cathedrals is still significantly down and revenue from their shops and restaurants is correspondingly also down. Apparently this was discussed at the recent conference for Deans and Chapters held in Manchester. Anecdotally this is also the case in most parishes. Hopefully the College of Bishops are all over this.

Maud Colthwaite
Maud Colthwaite
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 year ago

But if they are actively encouraging online worship or Church at Home, is it any wonder that footfall (or in-person worship), and hence revenue, is down?

Last edited 1 year ago by Maud Colthwaite
Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
1 year ago

Indeed Maud, but the sharp decline in the sacrament of baptism since 2009 is perhaps the most worrying of these grim statistics.

Ex clergy
Ex clergy
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 year ago

I often read the comments on this site and find them interesting. I feel I should comment on the Baptism decline. We had a thriving Baptism ministry with some being done in the morning service and some in the afternoons.We did about 20 a year and always followed them up and gained some families from them. Others starting coming to the Christmas services etc.
We had a new evangelical incumbent who introduced courses for Baptism families and put in restrictions and the number of Baptisms plummeted. It was so sad to see.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Ex clergy
1 year ago

There seems to be a strange mindset that babies need in some way to ‘qualify’ for baptism. Dick Lucas gave me an hour in his study once, where he convinced me forever, that the principle of infant baptism is that it’s about God’s initiative, not ours. He framed this around the archetypal baptismal experience of the Children of Israel when God led them down into the Red Sea, and delivered them to the other side. Could the Israelites save themselves? No. The salvation came solely from God, who took the initiative. Everyone of them was drawn through baptism to safety… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Ex clergy
1 year ago

Many clergy of various traditions have wanted to find ways to encourage families who bring children for baptism to engage more with the life of the Church. In my last parish we would do 30 or more a year and I was aware of people making promises and commitments and then not being seen in church again. I never went down the road of putting people through courses, but did for a while insist that people attended worship for a time before agreeing to a date for a baptism, in the hope that it would help them feel that they… Read more »

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
1 year ago

No such encouragement in my diocese where we are being encouraged back to yer actual church services. However, a friend who is an incumbent in a nearby diocese was told by a diocesan official that she had failed her (largely non-computer owning )congregation by not providing enough on-line worship during lockdown. She has just decided to retire.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Charles Read
1 year ago

I have heard the same happening in similar parishes in another Diocese, Charles. The incumbent has subsequently retired but it got very messy.

David Keen
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
1 year ago

the people who join us on Youtube are, invariably, those who are too infirm to make it to worship in person, but who still want to worship with the body of Christ on a Sunday. There’s no evidence, in our corner of the CofE anyway, that providing an online option is diminishing footfall.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
1 year ago

Over here in western Canada we are certainly being encouraged to continue online worship. However, my observation is that those who are taking part in it are mainly people whose health makes them nervous about Covid/’flu/RSV, or those whose mobility is not what it used to be, or those who find -30ºC a little challenging at their age. I rejoice that we can now offer those folks the option of worshipping online alongside our on-site service. Why on earth would we not do that, since we have the technology? Also, there are some new folks who watch us online for… Read more »

Janet Henderson
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 year ago

We were in Lincoln Cathedral on Saturday. It (and Lincoln is not small) was packed – so much so that there was a one way system in operation round the building & cloister. There was a eucharist in one of the chapels with about 20 participants but with many standing observing. People were praying & lighting candles constantly in two chapels. The choir was singing carols in the nave & nearly every seat in the vast nave was full as people listened and joined in. This was billed as a carol-sing, not a service. The tea room was packed out,… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Janet Henderson
1 year ago

Thank you Janet for recounting that and for a, in my view, very spot on assessment.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Janet Henderson
1 year ago

Yes BBC’s Look North has highlighted how successful the Christmas market in Lincoln Castle has been; those attending have evidently found their way across the square into Lincoln’s beautiful cathedral. The statistics provide objective comparisons across the year and across the country but great news about your experience at Lincoln.

Shamus
Shamus
1 year ago

Some dioceses have a quite shockingly low return figure for the “Statistics for Mission” annual form. How about renaming it “Statistics for Pastoral Care”? Then you might get more returns from parishes that put that as their priority.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Shamus
1 year ago

I think that the lack of pastoral care is a huge part of the missionary problem. There are clergy who think that they’re too grand for pastoral care and those who think that they’re too busy for it. But once a deacon always a deacon.

Michael H
Michael H
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 year ago

I agree with all that Fr Dean. In my own diocese the attendance statistics show catastrophic decline on all counts, including a comparison between Easter 2019 and 2021. Locally some churches were still locked at Easter 2021, some clergy denying communion for second consecutive Easter with bishop’s rubber stamped approval. The Church may wish to spin the online stats but how does that pay the bills? Whether there’s two or three in church, or hundreds, there’s still all the necessary expenditure such as insurance and heating. I doubt the College of Bishops are worried. They are the root cause of… Read more »

Cheryl
Cheryl
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 year ago

I certainly agree that ‘once a deacon always a deacon’ but a challenge I never managed to overcome was the ‘the Church of England is a waste of space but our vicar’s lovely’ problem. Pastoral care is a central part of our calling, but because people think primarily in individualistic terms it doesn’t necessarily make people motivated to explore a closer relationship with God or come to their local church.

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 year ago

I think Father that over the years there has been a mushrooming of Secular Counselling Agencies ( I studied a basic course on this back in 1996 to 1997) and people are turning to Counsellors as “Substitute Priests”, the only problem about Secular Counselling it makes no reference to God, Christ nor our Hope in Christ, and the Client becomes their own Saviour and it can become very self-Centred, whereas I think Good Priestly Pastoral in the best traditional and good old fashioned sense of the Word, points to our Hope in Christ, turns people beyond themselves to Christ and… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
1 year ago

Does it really need to take well over a year for these statistics to be reported? These are presumably the data which parishes were required to submit in October 2021. If it is to have any value, other than for academics writing theses on the decline of the CofE, it must be possible to process it more quickly than that.

NJW
NJW
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
1 year ago

It would be a challenge to report in October advance statistics for Advent and Christmas.
The deadlines for submission to diocese are actually the end of January of the following year (and end of June for Finance returns). Online returns are directly available to the national team, but the paper versions need inputting in dioceses before they can be included. The stated target for publication is October of the following year – so this year’s are late.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
1 year ago

As Froghole said on here sometime ago: attendances are down because there are fewer services to go to

Kate
Kate
1 year ago

There is soooo much more that could be done. For example, make 2024 the Year of the Word. Work with all denominations and call upon every Christian in the country to upload a video to YouTube of them saying the Apostles Creed. Schedule them all for release on Christmas Day. If people have their own channel (or can make a channel) great, but if not support them through their local church. Make it something everyone wants to be part of – like the clap for the NHS. It needs to be viral. That’s a year of publicity (aka mission) while… Read more »

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  Kate
1 year ago

I agree with this! When are we going to hold local clergy accountable? There is a lack of creative challenge. If I was a head teacher in a school and the admission rate had slumped I would be deemed inadequate. Numbers matter, because they are souls and not just statistics.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
1 year ago

A clergy friend of mine was turned down for a new parish by the suffragan bishop as he was unable to show evidence of numerical growth in his present parish. He could have pointed out to her that church-goers had plummeted in the diocese since she was appointed bishop. What is sauce for the priestly goose is sauce for the episcopal gander. She should resign over her failure to show numerical growth.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
1 year ago

Why spend energy ‘holding people to account’ when that energy could be spent spreading the Good News?

David Keen
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
1 year ago

If you were a head teacher in a school you would have paid staff, and a budget from the government designed to cover all your costs, including your building. Local clergy are dealing with volunteers, and a legacy form of church where maintenance hoovers up resources before mission gets a look in. As for accountability, a church with 1 vicar and 49 members has 50 missionaries, not one, when are we going to hold congregations accountable?

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  David Keen
1 year ago

When we train, and equip them and re-train and re-equip them! – oh, and resource them. And whilst i am not a fan of the “save the parish” initiative, there is plenty of money which needs to go back into parishes to help and support them in what is a totally different role for what many of them were trained and equipped for a few years ago.

Ken Eames
1 year ago

Hi Peter (and the Thinking Anglicans team), I wrote the Statistics for Mission report, and in that capacity I’d like to say thank you for starting this thread, and thank you to everyone who has commented. The fact that there’s thoughtful interest in the information helps me make the case to make it public. Someone in the discussion has asked the perfectly reasonable question: “Why does it take so long to publish the figures?”. Several reasons. One is that there’s quite a lot of work involved: getting the information in; checking, querying, and correcting possible errors; coming up with sensible… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

Many thanks for this generous clarification, Dr Eames! More especially many thanks to you and your team for all the work you do in collating and analysing these statistics. I have one minor observation about the ‘worshipping community’ table on page 6 of the report, which provides details of the age distribution of attendees (0-10, 11-18, 18-69, and over 70). I have attended services at about 5,500 churches in every diocese over the last 15 years, plus several hundred in Wales. Whenever I attend a service I usually do a quick scan to see how old people are, and if… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Without wishing to be impertinent, for what possible reason would anyone undergo the experience of attendance at 5500 churches unless it was for some specific academic study from which to draw conclusions? Are you intending to compile a compendium of parish experiences, or was it just for “pleasure”?

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 year ago

Insanity may be a factor.

It is also partly a pilgrimage (worshipping for its own sake). Partly a historical/topographical tour. Partly to get to know the country. Partly to get around before everything collapses (as it likely will).

Last edited 1 year ago by Froghole
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Thank you

Ken Eames
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Thank you for that comment. If you don’t mind me asking, how have you managed to attend services at so many churches? Maybe we should commission you to collect all the figures for us! I wouldn’t dream of disputing your observations – you’ve clearly been in many more churches than I have – and I would be all in favour of having more detail. I’ve discussed the worshipping community age groups from time to time with diocesan colleagues and others. A few dioceses have requested that we ask for a bit more detail from their churches, generally splitting the 18-69… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

“If you don’t mind me asking, how have you managed to attend services at so many churches?” Compiling inventories of service times across each diocese (actually, I do it by county), which entails a considerable amount of research online (though the online information can be inaccurate, as I have found to my cost on many times); often much digging is necessary. Doing physical reconnaissance on innumerable occasions, when online information is unavailable (as it often is), although information on notice boards or parish newsletters can often be misleading (assuming that information is even available; a good many churches have nothing… Read more »

Ken Eames
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Thank you for your explanation and for your pilgrimage.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

Thank you, Ken. I completed the stats returns for several years for my parishes so I know what’s involved at the parish level. My comment is that the stats really only deal with services of various sorts. Yes, you have the Fresh Expression section now but that’s asking about a particular activity. The only place you can include the wider work of mission (and I mean the 5 marks version, not evangelistic outreach) is in the comments section at the end. So information about the things we do in the wider community outside of the usual congregation and some of… Read more »

Ken Eames
Reply to  Mary Hancock
1 year ago

Thank you Mary, for your comment as well as your contributions over the years to the stats returns. I agree with you – the information covered by these figures represents a subset of the work of churches. Quite an important subset, I think, but a subset nonetheless. We ask a “one off” question each year that sometimes allows us to find out a bit more about other aspects of church life. For instance, we have asked about social action a number of times lately (most recently in 2019, and we’ll be asking again in 2022); about visitors to churches; and… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

Thank you, Dr Eames, for this comprehensive reply to my rather impertinent question. I didn’t expect that it would be answered by the author of the report himself! But who better to explain all the work that goes into it, and why it takes the time it does? Thank you for all that you do.

Ken Eames
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
1 year ago

Thank you for asking it! I’m always a bit cautious about contributing to online discussions, since I’m not sure either that it’s my place, or that it helps. But I get the sense from other comments here that there are plenty of things I can learn from this group, and I’m glad to have joined the conversation.

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

Thank you, Ken. There are of course ways in which more timely data of an indicative kind could be collected in order to tell whether your expressed projection of a “bounce back” could be based on some evidence. For example, you could take an appropriately stratified sample of parishes and ask them to report their attendance figures in more or less real time. It wouldn’t need to be an enormous sample to get a reasonable estimate, and with a carefully constructed sample there would be a quantifiable margin of error. The previous data give a very good sampling frame from… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Bernard Silverman
Ken Eames
Reply to  Bernard Silverman
1 year ago

Thanks Bernard. Very good suggestion. I agree, there’s no need to wait for 100% response before coming up with estimates. If I did I’d be waiting a long time! The early responders this year allowed me to come up with estimates back in January. I shared these estimates internally – fairly heavily caveated, obviously, and they turned out to be pretty close to the final figures. Similarly, I shared diocesan-level estimates with diocesan colleagues in March. This year, at the initiative of and with the support of some keen diocesan colleagues, quite a lot of churches in a handful of… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

Am I right that no figure for the number of baptisms is given? I observe baptisms and thanksgivings conflated in one number, but not separately. Why is this?

Ken Eames
Reply to  T Pott
1 year ago

Hello, thanks for the question. Baptisms and thanksgivings are reported separately in table 5, page 8.

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
1 year ago

Am I missing them entirely or are there no confirmation figures available in these statistics? I know confirmation numbers have been in free fall for quite a few years but surely we still need to know what they are?

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
1 year ago

And who is getting confirmed Andrew. I suspect Public School confirmations account for a significant percentage of those being confirmed now. I get the impression confirmation is still an important rite in Catholic parishes but is it regarded as important in many evangelical parishes. Anecdotal evidence suggests not.

Credenhill
Credenhill
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 year ago

It would be arguable from an Evangelical perspective (where Confirmation is not seen as sacramental, but simply an affirmation of baptismal faith) whether Confirmation is necessary for those baptised as adults ? However, when I had access to the Baptism and Confirmation figures of one particular Diocese I did a little analysis of the figures from parishes with thriving outreach programmes and strong youth/children’s work (most, but not all, Evangelical): whilst there were relatively large numbers associated with the churches, this did not seem to be paralleled by large numbers of Confirmations or Baptisms (child or adult). A tentative conclusion… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Credenhill
1 year ago

‘A tentative conclusion was that outreach was bringing people into association with the churches and worship in reasonable numbers, but was not leading many of them any further in to discipleship and communicant life.’

My own experience was the opposite. My confirmation at the age of twelve had only a very superficial effect on my life. But my personal conversion experience as a young teen a couple of years later changed my life and was the real beginning of conscious discipleship for me.

David Keen
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 year ago

A bit more anecdotal evidence, we’re an evangelical parish and we had the most candidates at a recent confirmation service in Bath and Wells. It’s something we encourage people to consider on a regular basis, but in practice we end up with a small cluster every few years – 7 this year. But yes its still way down – when I was confirmed as a teenager in the 1980s there were 15 of us just in the youth confirmation class in 1 church, and that happened every year.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 year ago

Anecdotal evidence is that I was raised in an evangelical parish and was confirmed at 12 because my parents said it was time. I never rebelled against church but it wasn’t especially personal or relevant to me. However, a year oir two later, as a young teen, I had an evangelical conversion experience that changed my life. Not surprisingly, this event looms much larger for me. I remember the date and time of that conversion experience, but not the date of my confirmation. I have to look on the certificate for that. I suspect my experience is reflected in the… Read more »

Barrie McKenzie
Barrie McKenzie
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 year ago

Why should we no longer collect confirmation figures simply because some evangelical churches don’t consider it important? Our parish had 17 confirmations last year and a further 19 this year. Seems worth reporting to me.

Ken Eames
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
1 year ago

Hi Andrew, no you’re not missing anything. Unfortunately there’s hasn’t been the resource to compile these figures this year (or last year). I hope to be able to report confirmation figures in future and – all being well – to fill in the gaps from 2020 and 2021 too.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

I think I remember confirmations are included on the stats form, alongside baptisms – or am I mistaken?
Re ages of congregants, I suspect that Froghole’s observations are just as good as my guesstimates at age distribution and possibly better. I am hopeless at estimating age (because it’s not very important to me perhaps). I am frequently told that I look much younger than my age. And it’s a bit disturbing to be told since I retired earlier in the year that I look very well – goodness knows what I looked like under the stresses of parish ministry.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

When a confirmation service takes place, the priest presenting candidates is required to give the bishop a form with the details.Therefore bishops’ offices should know the figures for each parish (and schools, colleges etc) in the diocese, I believe.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Shamus
1 year ago

That practice stopped a few years ago, Shamus, at least in my Diocese. I presented the form and was told we don’t do that now – GDPR was the reason given (which seemed strange at the time).

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Mary Hancock
1 year ago

Ah, interesting. Thank you Mary.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Mary Hancock
1 year ago

As mentioned in my reply to Peter Kettle on the Bishop of Ebbsfleet thread, when my wife was confirmed in 1952 she received from the Diocese of Winchester not merely a ‘certificate’ but a small book of devotions for Communion with all the personal Confirmation details, the printed signature of the Bishop (Alwyn Williams) and the name of the priest who presented her, and had prepared her. I don’t know whether anything similar happens nowadays; it seems a pity if not. Were those more ‘caring’ times? I tend to think so.

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  Ken Eames
1 year ago

Thank you Ken. Like Mary Hancock, I am sure I recall providing the figures on the return form in the past. Thanks for your hard work.

Ken Eames
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
1 year ago

Thanks Andrew and Mary. We don’t ask about confirmations on the “national” form, but it’s possible that some dioceses have slightly tweaked it in the past, or have asked for the information through another route – Articles of Enquiry, maybe. We get our information from Bishops’ offices, rather than asking each church separately. That ought to help avoid the possibility of people being double-counted or not counted at all because they happened not to be confirmed in their home church. And it ought to be quicker and easier all round, but for the past couple of years I’ve run out… Read more »

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