A report in Christian Today picks up on research by Peter Brierley that suggests the church is still declining in the UK.
His key findings are:
- Churchgoing has declined from 3.5m in 2000 to 2.9m in 2010.
- The most absent generation is among the under 15’s
- 59 per cent of all churches in England have no members between the ages of 15 and 19
- Black majority and other ethnic churches are bucking the trend and are still growing
Brierley attributes the drop in numbers to less evangelism, the large numbers of 30-44 yr olds leaving the church due to life pressures and ageing clergy, as ministers tend to
attract their own age group.
Brierley certainly knows what he’s talking about, but I wonder whether these statistics are, in a way, skewed by the practical reality that you can only measure the measurable. There are all sorts of expressions of church going on, many below the radar of any reasonable attempt to measure them. I know of at least three going on here in Colchester that I’m pretty sure will have evaded the Brierley measuring device. Whether these kind of gains outweigh the losses is an important issue. Maybe not. But they may also be highly influential in growing the church in all sorts of ways that evade conventional congregational measurement because, well, they’re not conventional congregations.
Or am I too much of an optimist? Interestingly, Brierley concludes, “There is so much mess and change but there is another element too. God is working his purposes out as year succeeds to year.” I think there’s more going on than meets the eye.