Thinking Anglicans

Statistics for Mission 2022

The Church of England has released its Statistics for Mission 2022. There is an accompanying press release, copied below.

Church attendance rises for second year running
10/11/2023

Statistics for Mission show increase in regular worshippers and average weekly attendance

Nearly a million people were regular worshippers last year as the Church of England continued its post pandemic bounce back, statistics from the Church of England show today.

The worshipping community of the Church of England – made up of regular worshippers – grew by nearly 20,000 people to 984,000 in 2022 compared to 966,000 in 2021. Average weekly attendance for all ages grew nearly 50,000 over the same period from 605,000 to 654,000.

Child average weekly attendance rose 17% from its 2021 level to 87,000 and there was an 85% rise in all age school service attendance from its 2021 level to 164,000.

But despite the rises over two years, the figures were lower than before the pandemic in 2019 when the worshipping community stood at 1.1 million and all age average weekly attendance was 854,000.

Child average weekly attendance stood at 120,000 and school service attendance was 182,000 in 2019.

The Church of England’s Statistics for Mission showed that there were 81,800 baptisms and thanksgivings for a child, compared to 55,200 in 2021.

Nearly 10,000 more children aged between one and four years old were baptised in 2022 compared to 2019 as churches caught up on baptisms that had been postponed amid Covid measures.

Similarly the number of marriages and services of prayer and dedication after civil marriage rose to pre pandemic levels at 31,400 in 2022.

Christmas attendance rose to 1.6 million in 2022 compared to 970,000 in 2021 while Easter attendance rose to 860,000 compared to 520,000 in 2021.

Attendances for Advent services in churches in 2022 stood at 3.9 million, including community, civic and school services.

More than a third of churches, or 36%, continued to provide ‘church at home’ services in 2022, offered online, by phone, post, email, and other means.

Social action figures for churches showed more than 30,000 projects supported or provided by Church of England parishes with emergency food provision and community cafes on the rise amid the cost of living crisis.

Nearly two-thirds of Church of England churches – 60% – are involved in running or supporting food banks while more than one in five, or 23%, runs or supports a community café, typically offering low cost or free meals.

The figures show that churches are running 450 more food banks and community cafes in 2022 than in 2019.

The survey also showed that 500 churches reported for the first time in 2022 that they had offered a ‘warm space’ to help people struggling to heat their homes.

Overall the figures showed 31,300 social action projects supported or run by Church of England churches last year compared to 35,000 in 2019 before the pandemic, with the report noting the likely impact of Covid restrictions on some activities.

Churches reported running 14,100 projects themselves and hosting another 3,400. A further 4,200 projects were carried out in partnership with other organisations and an additional 9,700 projects were supported by churches in other ways.

More than 2,000 of those churches responding for the 2022 survey reported that they ran three or more different social action projects.

Separate figures show the number of people praying online continued to grow with 4.6 million downloads over the past year across all Church of England podcasts.

Daily Prayer audio – across the Daily Prayer podcast and app – has now reached more than 1.6 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 85 million times this year so far.

Posts shared by the Church of England were engaged with 16.5 million times – an increase of 380% on previous 12 months.

Dr Ken Eames, author of the Statistics for Mission 2022 report, from the Church of England’s Data Services team, said: “Churches did everything they could to return to normal life in 2022 following the huge disruption of 2020 and 2021 caused by the pandemic.

“But 2022 was not free of its impact, indeed official figures suggest that Covid rates were higher in October 2022 than in 2021.

“Although for many people things were getting back to normal, churches were still experiencing Covid-related disruption.”

You can read the full report here.

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David Hawkins
David Hawkins
5 months ago

This report hit a very raw nerve for me. Change the context and this could be taken from the annual report of a fast food chain. Is the Church of England simply about bums on seats ? That has certainly been my personal experience I reluctantly came to the conclusion that my former parish was all about bums on seats. If you are vulnerable, difficult, questioning, depressed even then you are an inconvenience just as you would be to a burger chain. It doesn’t have to be like this and it isn’t like this in the Diocese of Monmouth. A… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  David Hawkins
5 months ago

Not the case in the church that I am part of. Have continued ‘warm space’ throughout the year (just renamed it), continued with seniors club every Friday (many do not attend a service), continued with new mums group (most do not attend a service) toddler groups (most do not attend a service) etc. Loss leaders! However Jesus did command His church to preach the good news of the resurrection, to call for repentance from sin and to make disciples of all nations. So recently there were six adults baptised and the number attending has grown so there are now two… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
Reply to  Bob
5 months ago

Congratulations. Now what can be done in reaching out and engaging with the parish beyond the building?

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Jeremy Pemberton
5 months ago

All of those activities do involve reaching out to the parish, as do the summer family fun day, the fireworks, the carols by candlelight, remembrance services, harvest festival, Burns night etc.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Bob
5 months ago

Burns night etc…”

That’s what I call evangelism.

If you serve haggis I will come to your church. Whisky would be welcome as well.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Susannah Clark
5 months ago

Definitely haggis plus piper, not sure about the whisky though.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  David Hawkins
5 months ago

Ah yes, but then we’d have to think about faith in terms other than those of neoliberal capitalism, and that might get the Bishops thrown out of the Lord’s 😉

Shamus
Shamus
5 months ago

If I’m reading it right, many dioceses have about 30% of churches that don’t bother to fill in the statistics form. Says something perhaps about what they think.

Ken Eames
Ken Eames
Reply to  Shamus
5 months ago

Response rate does vary by diocese. Overall, about 87% of churches reported their information. That’s been roughly the case for the past few years. It’s not the same set of churches that report each year, so the estimation (which is calculated using figures from churches that reported in 2019 and 2022) is based on about 77% of churches.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Shamus
5 months ago

In the days I had to do the forms, I thought that the questions were wrong if you were trying to gauge what churches were doing and being in their parishes. The ‘extra comments’ box at the end of my forms were always full of what I considered had been missed off the form, or disregarded as relevant.

Ken Eames
Reply to  Mary Hancock
5 months ago

Thank you Mary. I find the contents in the comments boxes very useful and I read as many of them as I can in the time available. It was the large number of comments along the lines of “we serve the population of our parish in many other ways aside from acts of worship” that led to us asking about social action (first in 2017, then again in 2019 and 2022); yours may have been some of the comments that prompted that change.

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
5 months ago

For the first time in the fifteen years that I have taken an interest in these statistics, the figures at diocesan level are not included in the main report but are available in an appendix referred to on page 20 of the pdf. However, the link to that appendix goes to the previous year’s report and not to the 2022 statistics. I’ve left a message with Ken Eames, the overall author of the document, and await a reply.

I post this comment in case anyone else has noticed this issue.

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
Reply to  Peter Owen
5 months ago

They are. Thank you!

Ken Eames
Ken Eames
Reply to  Laurence Cunnington
5 months ago

Thank you Laurence for noting the absence of the diocesan figures – the web page was playing up earlier so it took me longer than usual to upload them. Peter, thank you for sharing the link. Diocesan tables weren’t in the pdf report for the past couple of years either – I wanted to include a longer time series to show the pre-pandemic trends, it would have been unreadable on a printable page.

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
Reply to  Ken Eames
5 months ago

Thank you. The longer time series information is most helpful.

Susannah Clark
5 months ago

The demographic ‘cliff’ that needs to be navigated lies in the details of attendance by age. A third of church members are over 70. Putting it bluntly, even though there is a post-pandemic ‘bounce back’ (though still short of the numbers in 2019) the challenge will be to replace 350,000 people over 70 when they die. I don’t say that to be heartless to older people (I am over 70 myself). But it’s clear: ‘church attendance rising’ is a misleading headline, because in reality there is a relentless fall in numbers, which is pretty much a demographic inevitability unless something… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  Susannah Clark
5 months ago

Well here is a cathedral church doing something.

https://youtu.be/tw7Wgh0xIwk?si=2wGpArSIR47azg7E

Newport is a pretty deprived area and I note that they recruit children with potential, not necessarily those with any musical training. They love those kids and involve them. Some of them will go on to be active adult Christians. But it starts with Christian love not statistics and bums on seats.
And yes I know. Many Churches in England do understand the need for welcome and love. My criticism is of the leadership at the top of the Church of England.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Susannah Clark
5 months ago

Dave Walker’s cartoon in last week’s (3 Nov) Church Times was telling – not sure whether this can be linked by someone.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
5 months ago

Do the figures include those worshipping online, or only those who can get into the building?

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Janet Fife
5 months ago

see page 7

“Approximately 6% of the members of churches’ Worshipping Communities in 2022 were people who were entirely or predominantly Church at Home worshippers, compared to approximately 10% in 2021.”

Ken Eames
Ken Eames
Reply to  Janet Fife
5 months ago

Hi Janet: it’s a bit of each. Worshipping community numbers do include regular online worshippers (though, obviously, it’s not always possible to know the precise number of people accessing online services, so there’ll be a certain amount of estimation involved). “Attendance” figures – average weekly attendance, Christmas, Easter, etc are in person. That’s in large part because there is such a large range of ways that various online platforms report “views” that aggregating the numbers wouldn’t be meaningful. I’ve include a summary of the “Church at Home” services that churches are offering – many churches have continued to offer these,… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Ken Eames
5 months ago

Thanks, Paul and Ken. I imagine the numbers joining a congregation online will grow, as many worshippers are now over 70. I’m a regular worshipper at a Scottish Episcopal church in Edinburgh, though I live in Whitby. St James has the resources and imagination to run a hybrid service very well. I hope others will be able to follow a similar model.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
5 months ago

A significant decline in straight couples wanting to get married in church even post pandemic, I wonder if this part of a general decline in the popularity of matrimony or is another example of the church’s entropy.

I would have thought that the number of confirmands might have bounced back too but they too seem to be in the doldrums.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Fr Dean
5 months ago

The decline in church weddings reflects the increased competition from a wide range of venues offering a full wedding package, which is often cheaper. The decline also reflects the reality of a post-Christian society.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Bob
5 months ago

Buy cheap, buy twice!

Ken Eames
Reply to  Bob
5 months ago

Thank you Fr Dean & Bob. Worth noting, regarding wedding and confirmation figures for 2022, that there’s a certain amount of lead time involved. Some churches will have revived their confirmation classes very quickly, for others it will have taken a little longer – so there might be some people still waiting. That’s notwithstanding pre-pandemic trends, of course. Regarding weddings, it looks as though there were a good number of people married in church in 2022 who would have got married in church in 2020 or 2021 were it not for the pandemic.

RobT
RobT
Reply to  Bob
5 months ago

Certainly where my parents live, there is a problem with the number of venues offering ‘reception only’ service. Most places require you purchasing the full package from them, including the civil ceremony in their rooms.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Fr Dean
5 months ago

I presume confirmation continues to decline as it loses the gatekeeping function in relation to Holy Communion, as well as no longer being a default right of passage for children raised in the church.

Ken Eames
Ken Eames
5 months ago

As ever, if anyone has questions or comments, I’d be very happy to chat – either on this forum or by email (see contact details in the report). Or, for anyone who’ll be at Synod, I’ll be in the building so can talk in person (I hope – currently in A&E so things are a bit uncertain).

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
5 months ago

I think to headline this report Church attendance rises for second year running. is somewhat disingenuous. The painful comparison with figures of 10-15 years ago is that there has been about a 40% decline. Now it maybe that things are on the up post pandemic, but there is a huge mountain to climb to make these figures look anything other than gloomy reading.

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
5 months ago

Without wishing to rain on the triumphalist ‘growth’ parade, looking at the diocesan tables it becomes evident that the ‘bounce back’ is not evenly spread over the board: many dioceses have decreased in attendance, most of those that have increased have done so in tiny numbers.

Even as the Church Commissioners have lavished millions on ‘Strategic Development’ even as millions have done Alpha. Even after decades obsessing over growth.

When do we stop to think ‘are there other ways to be true witnesses to the Christian faith’ than bums on pews.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

Of course those ‘bums on pews’ contribute to the funding of the church, allowing the church to employ full time staff, fund mission inc mercy activities. Fewer attending means decline!

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Bob
5 months ago

Fewer attending is obviously not a good thing, though if the principal consideration of attendees is their financial contribution we may as well pack up now. The church has resources, it has finances: relying on churchgoers to pay for the whole show is a relatively recent phenomenon. I think there is an issue about use of resources in response to decline, and a bigger issue about the cause of decline. The assumption prevalent for decades now has been that church decline is because of something the church is or is not doing, and decline can be reversed by the church… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Fr Andrew
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

‘The church has resources, it has finances: relying on churchgoers to pay for the whole show is a relatively recent phenomenon.’

Interesting. I’ve been in full time ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada for 45 years and I’ve never worked in a parish where churchgoers didn’t pay the whole show – either for themselves, or with the help of churchgoers from richer parts of the church (via diocesan assessments).

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
5 months ago

It’s quite a complicated story in England (and others can tell it better than I). Historically, there are the investments of The Church Commissioners (e.g. Queen Anne’s Bounty), currently being wasted on vanity projects and panic projects, and then the various assets of parishes (glebe etc.) which were there to support the livings, taken into the hands of Diocesan Boards of Finance in the 1980s (?) and when they were mismanaged, suddenly there appeared the Parish Share and the pews were required to pay. Oh, and much of the church’s resources is currently taken up paying pensions for retired clergy… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Fr Andrew
Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

I would suggest there is value in pausing to consider that if decline is not responding to what we are doing, it might not be because we are doing the wrong thing, but because decline is not caused by us and is unlikely to respond to us doing.

Decline is a response to what we are doing. There’s plenty of evidence for that.

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Oliver Miller
5 months ago

Please could you point me to this evidence? Ta.

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Oliver Miller
5 months ago

Thank you Oliver, Is this the same report that gave birth to From Anecdote to Evidence? It reads very similarly.There are a heap of methodological/interpretive issues with the research: it’s mostly based on self reporting and reports ‘associations’ / correlations which notoriously cannot say what causes what, which direction etc. However, if we ignore the methodological/ interpretive limitations I would still say that I wouldn’t take the conclusion you have from the study reported here that what churches are or are not doing is driving decline. The best we could say is that some things some churches are doing seem… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Fr Andrew
Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

I think you are spot on. Across mainstream Protestantism in Canada it has been noted that decline began in the mid 1960’s and with each subsequent generation, larger proportions of the population are leaving Christianity. For most of that time the loss of bums in the pews has not resulted in widespread closure. That is about the change. The worshipping Anglican population in Canada is somewhere around 125,000 souls and is top heavy with “old and older.” Meaning about 50% are over the age of 65. I’m not convinced that decline can be averted. The social forces have been at… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Peter Misiaszek
5 months ago

While I wish it were otherwise, in all sincerity, this is a very insightful and prescient comment, consistent with the data that Neil Elliot has compiled.

Paul
Paul
5 months ago

Ken Eames has produced a very helpful report which compares things to 2019 – the interesting question. A press officer has given the press release a very misleading title which implies everything is going great despite the fact that less than 1% of the UK’s population now attends a CofE church on a Sunday; the median church now has only one child in attendance on a Sunday; and Sunday numbers have dropped by nearly a quarter in three years (faster than in the ten years 2009-2019). The headline is not false, but it is not really an honest title. I… Read more »

David G
David G
Reply to  Paul
5 months ago

“The headline is not false, but it is not really an honest (claim)” sums up the slippery comms regime we’ve grown accustomed to under Welby and Cottrell. Neither of them are truthful individuals. But backed by the Secretariat of Church House and Lambeth Palace, we’re all extremely weary of being told to ignore the dark clouds and look at a little sliver of foil. The Mission headline is tantamount to saying dinner was first class, and the band was terrific…as the Steward’s ledger for Titanic records. Welby’s tenure has never really worked. He was brought in to somehow square the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
5 months ago

This is interesting: “But despite the rises over two years, the figures were lower than before the pandemic in 2019 …” I’ve linked an article by Neil Elliot re: attendance stats and the pandemic. Also, the information about social media and C of E posts near the end is intriguing. Is there any deeper analysis available on that? How many individual interactions this may represent, how long people remain engaged with an item on a platform, which platforms are engaged the most etc.? “Canon Neil Elliot, statistics officer for the Anglican Church of Canada, says the church needs to start planning… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
5 months ago

The good news we have to share is about Jesus, rather than about statistics. Any time we try to make statistics = good news, we impoverish our witness. The prophets never went with statistics.

David Keen
David Keen
Reply to  Mark Bennet
5 months ago

I agree completely with your first sentence. However Luke gives regular statistical updates in Acts, and God corrects Elijah’s inaccurate stats in 1 Kings 19:18.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  David Keen
5 months ago

I was never aware God is a statistician. Is that a little-known characteristic of His omnipotence?

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  FrDavid H
5 months ago

Oh yes, counts every hair on our heads (if we have any) you know. ☺️

David Keen
David Keen
Reply to  FrDavid H
5 months ago

Absolutely. Though his Son had a terrible habit of getting his maths wrong when it came to catering, and ending up with far more than people needed.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  David Keen
5 months ago

You would think He’d learnt His lesson the first time it happened. But He did it twice. So much for being perfect!

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
5 months ago

I have always thought the relevant number should not be “X people attend our services weekly” but “X percent of the population in our community attend our services weekly”.

John U.K.
John U.K.
Reply to  Pat ONeill
5 months ago

Very true. Fifty years ago, when most rural parishes had their own incumbent, and populations from 200-2000, figures of 20, 30, 40 in church might mean 5-10% of the population. Meanwhile, in uirban parishes with populations of 5000-20,000 or more, the same numbers attending meant less than 1%.
But when it came to cutting posts, it was often the rural parishes which lost sole incumbents first, being wrapped up into ever greater muilti-church benefices. ISTR Lincoln diocese leading the way, being the first to achieve benefices formed from 10 or more parishes – now common in rural dioceses.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
5 months ago

These numbers are utterly disastrous. A 20% decline in 3 years is more than double the rate of decline pre-2019.

I expected that the impact of Covid would be reduced attendance among the elderly but this is not the case. Child attendance has declined more than adult attendance, and the % of attendees over the age of 70 has increased. This implies that younger attendees have got out of the habit of attendance, and are unlikely to come back.

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
5 months ago

Numbers matter, because people matter. This is not a report about statistics but about souls. God is not interested in numbers, but he is interested in numbers of people. And given that the church has been in decline for about 100 years, isn’t it about time for an anti-decline strategy?

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