WHERE ARE WE NOW?
THE BIG PICTURE
“Crisis: what crisis?
Jim Callaghan, PM
First, the bad news…in an ideal world we would not wanting to be starting from here
1) Church AttendanceChurchgoing across the UK continues to decline in each of the 4 parts of the UK. No way to disguise the facts that the losses still outweigh the gains and attendance and membership overall in the UK is down annually. The overall breakdown of the UK picture is as follows:
Church Attendees: 8%
Regular Fringe Attendees 12%
2005 UK Church members 12.3% (7.8 million)
2010 UK Church members 11.2% (5.5 million)
2015 UK Church members 10.3% (4.8 million)
In particular the mainline denominations are experiencing a significant decline in the last 5 years:
- Church of England membership declined by 11%
- Roman Catholic membership declined 12% (in Northern Ireland 38%)
- Methodist membership declined by 20%
- Church of Scotland membership declined by 18%
- Welsh Independents membership declined by 20%
- Evangelical churches membership declined by 8%
3) Church Locations
- Rural decline
- Urban exodus
4) Church Demographics
- Children and youth continue to leave the church in huge numbers
- Absence of Young Adults (Gen Y 18-34’s)
- Ageing congregations
- More women than men
- Absence of the “poor”
SHOOTS OF HOPE
Pulling out of the Nosedive, was a report published a few years ago referring to the signs of recovery after a troubling decade 1990-2000. It indicated that in the first decade of this century amidst the gloom there were apparent signs of hope amidst the landscape of hostile terrain. 10 years later, published only last month by the same author, Peter Brierley, Church Statistics 2010-2015 gives us the most recent national picture of churchgoing in the UK and confirms that there are indeed some signs of hope.
1) Church attendance/membership
- Slowing decline overall in UK church
- In 2010 6.3% of the population attended mid week service with 1 million only attending a midweek service.
- In London there was a 4% increase in church attendance in last 2 years
- 35% UK adults attended a church service over Christmas Eve/Christmas Day last year.
- 85% of the population visit a church or place of worship in the course of a year, for reasons ranging from participating in worship to attending social events, funerals, baptisms or simply wanting a quiet space.
- Every year, around 12 million people visit Church of England cathedrals, including 300,000 pupils on school visits
- 6% of adult Britons claim to belong to a ‘church group or bible study’, according to a YouGov poll released last month in The Sunday Times. Trade unions and gyms topped the list (at 12% each), followed by the National Trust (10%), with church groups in fourth position, just ahead of football clubs (5%).
2) Church plants/New forms of church
- Between 2005-2010 nearly 2,700 new congregations have begun. 25% are Pentecostal, often black churches, 50% new forms of church and fresh expressions, 25% other denominational churches/independent churches.
- The three categories of new churches that are growing significantly in the UK is: New Types of Churches, Orthodox churches and Pentecostal churches.
- In the last five years the Methodist Church has planted 893 new churches, most new forms of church for unchurched people, with café churches, Messy Church and cell groups being among the most popular with new Monastic communities spreading all over the country in various forms..
- The Redeemed Church of God, which started in 1990 with a few churches, has now planted 430 new churches in the last 20 years.
- Baptist church has planted over 70 churches in the last five years.
- There are 1,500 ‘reverse missionaries’ in the UK from over 50 other nations. They are sent here as missionaries and live among us.
3) Youth work
Youth: Profile of youth workers UK report 2003 an attempt was made to show the enormous contribution of churches to young people in the UK. Here are some of its highlights, which point to an incalculable picture of influence in the nation.
- 12,000 Christian youth workers in the UK (50% PT)
- 500,000 young people between 12-19 attend church monthly
- 250,00 in addition attend youth groups regularly
- 132,000 young people are involved in bible groups or cells
- 102,00 actively involved in worship planning or participation
- 64,000 play/sing in music groups
- 40,000 sing in a church choir
- 45,000 young people minister to children younger than them
- 87.000 church attendees are engaged in youth work alone in England
- 1 in 4 churches in the UK have some form of youth club
- 10% of all UK churches aim to pioneer a new youth ministry/form of church in next 1-2 years
- 100,000’s of thousands of young people are connected to youth agencies and mission organizations outside of church, e.g. Urban Saints, Youth for Christ, Scripture Union etc.
- 100,000’s young people are reached by the Methodist annually, 407,000 by the Church of England and youth attendance at church for the first time in decades has been seen in Anglican and Baptist congregations.
- 100,000’s of thousands of young people are connected/reached through school assemblies, CU and SU groups across the nation.
The impact of the UK Church upon the young people of this nation is enormous.
4) Volunteerism and community engagement
More people do unpaid work for church organisations and by church organisations than any other organisation in the country. The church is the leading volunteer organisation in the nation. Here are some facts:
- Churchgoers overall contribute 23.2 million hours voluntary service each month in their local communities outside the church
- 72 million volunteer hours per year by churches
- 25% of all Christians are engaged in voluntary community service outside their church
- If the volunteers were paid the minimum wage and rent charged at average prices then the financial contribution alone would be equivalent to 1 billion pounds per year.
- 68% of the UK population consider the church an important part of their local community.
- 70% believe churches provide valuable social and community facilities
- 57% believe it should be more actively involved in the local community.
- The contribution to “social capital” by church volunteers was noted in the following key areas:
Parent and toddlers
Caring for elderly
Helping the homeless
5) Education and schools
- Christianity is still required to be taught as the main religion in schools and often is.
- A “broad act of Christian worship” is required to be held in all schools unless by special exemption.
- Church schools, particularly in England play a significant role in education with 100,000’s of children and families coming under the influence of Christian schools.
- I in 4 primary schools and 1 in 16 secondary schools in England are Church of England schools with specific Christian purposes.
- 7 in 10 of the population agree that church schools help young people to grow into responsible members of society and 8 in 10 agree that they promote good behaviour and positive attitudes.
- 86% of all churches in the UK work with schools/pre-schools in some way
- It is impossible to calculate the influence of Christian education, Christian schools, and Christian work in the nation. How many assemblies, how many after school clubs, how many Easter services, Nativity events, visits to local churches, how many chaplains, how many Christian teachers and the list goes on. Millions of children have a Christian influence directly or indirectly through school.
6) Christian courses/initiatives
Course journey evangelism continues to be influential in the nation:
- 2/3’s of people newly added to church in the last 5 years did so from well-known courses, e.g. Alpha, Christianity Explored, and Emmaus etc. Conversion comparisons are the same in all courses but no bigger in Alpha due to its size. 4 million in UK done Alpha.
- Nearly 3 million people in the UK have done Alpha alone.
- Back to church Sunday has seen over 150,000 return to church in the last two years. 1 in 6 of people that came back to church Sunday are in the church 6 months later. 19 new people came back to each church that participated, and 12-15% stay.
7) Spirituality interest
Evangelism in a spiritual age was a report written a few years ago that interviewed people outside the church about spirituality. Its results showed an increased interest in spiritual things among people in society. The report needs reading in full, but it indicates several interesting things;
- People are interested in Jesus and what he had to say
- 75% of people are still asking the big questions of life, especially purpose.
- 62% UK call themselves Christians
- 48% pray
- 70% believe in God
In January 2011 the Bible Society conducted a piece of national research in relation to the Bible. They found:
- 9% engage with bible weekly
- 13% engage with the bible once a month
- 2 in 5 agreed bible is a good influence on society
- 34% agreed we would be a much better society if more people engaged with bible
- 1 in 3 homes have a bible
- 34% said bible relevant for today
- Bible sales since 2009 have shot up on Amazon
- 400+ Christian bookshops across UK
There are many shoots of hope in the UK church, which are breaking through the hard and hostile terrain of an ever-increasing post modern, post-Christian and secular environment. We would be foolish to ignore the challenges and setbacks, but equally foolish to think everything is lost, everything is bad and everything is hopeless. There are signs of hope in the desert place.
“The British church is NOT on its “deathbed” but it is changing and traditional practices are changing too. Its future health may well depend to some extent on flexibility and adaptability while never abandoning the patterns of Scripture and never minimizing the work of the Holy Spirit. “ (Church Statistics: Peter Brierley, May 2011)
ROOTS OF HOPE
1) The stirring up of God
2) Holy Discontent with the status quo (in church and in society)
3) Intercessory Prayer
4) Visionary Leadership
5) Rediscovery of the priority of Mission
6) Releasing of Creativity
7) Room for Diversity
8) New forms and ways of being church
9) Growth often takes place on the margins and not at the centre
10) Longing for community (belonging) and engagement (participation)
11) Quest for the experience and the supernatural (mystical)
12) A deep concern for leaving and missing generations
13) Rediscovery of lay ministry
14) Refocus on whole of life discipleship
Isaiah 35: Prayer of Hope
1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendour of our God.