Church attendance on the rise in the UK?

canterbury-cathedral_39564a

Well I never.

There has been a bit of a buzz around that church attendance figures in the UK are on the up! This after decades of dropping like a stone. These are the sorts of stats we have become used to (from here)

att_trend_chart

eu_church_att_chart

att_trend_chart

Of course, the picture was never simple- some individual churches are growing- the odd American imported super church, Black Pentecostal churches, and Orthodox churches- these have all been on the increase… albeit from a low base.

But statistics- they can be very misleading, so I did a bit of searching to see if I could find specific details of the studies.

The first one concerns a study done by Tearfund- mentioned in the Telegraph here.

A survey of 7,000 people by Tearfund found that 26 per cent say they went to a church service in 2008, up from 21 per cent the year before.

In addition, the proportion who say they attend church every month has risen from 13 per cent to 15 per cent, while one in 10 claim they go at least once a week, up from 9 per cent.

These are the highest figures recorded by the development agency for more than three years, contradicting research that has claimed churchgoing is in steady decline across Britain.

Young adults and pensioners are said to have taken up churchgoing in the greatest numbers, with a 10 per cent rise in attendance reported among the over-75s. Geographically, the biggest increase was seen in Wales (12 per cent).

It would mean that 7.3million adults now go to church – excluding weddings, baptisms and funerals – once a month. Official figures show that only 1.7m people attend Church of England services every month, while a further million attend weekly Mass at a Roman Catholic church.

The full details of the Tearfund study can be found on their website- here.

Another Telegraph articles makes the link with the deepening economic crisis- here.

Numbers of people attending Cathedral services have been on the increase for a while- see here and here.

So what are we to make of this? One swallow does not make a summer, but the numbers quoted in the Tearfund study are significant- as is the year on year 4% Cathedral attendance increase since 2000.

I think we people of faith should pay little heed to these figures. Let us instead remember some lessons learnt when church attendance figures looked like the charts above, which I think should include some of these-

  • We can no longer expect ‘attractional’ models of church to fill the pews.
  • Church is not about sacred buildings, but about letting loose the people of faith into the towns and cities about us.
  • The new context requires new ways of interpreting the gospel, and a re-examination of how the enculturalisation of church has contributed to a lack of relevance.
  • But the old mystical/contemplative traditions have much to teach us too.
  • Faith is discovered through action and interaction, not through didactic teaching.
  • Doctrine is not the most important thing.
  • Love is.

7 thoughts on “Church attendance on the rise in the UK?

  1. This makes me so angry. Who cares about the numbers going to a church? The question sould be how many of them actually believe the ideas that is dished out. I have regular challenged the priest at the church I ‘have’ to go to. The school system in this country now forces grown adults to go to their organisation if they want their kids to go to a good school. Many in my church are the same and we are very angry. Others know who we are and black ball us. I’m forced to do this, but as soon as my kids are out of the system, I am out of there. Its a scandal and I cant believe ppl actually believe this stuff is ‘true’

    • Hi Dee

      Let me make sure I understand what you are saying- you are going to church and pretending to believe in God in order to get your kids into a church school? And you are angry about this because you are forced to do this to get your kids into a good school. And others in the church know this, and do not like it. Do I sense that you are suggesting that this is the reason for an increase in the numbers attending church?

      I suppose we all make the choices that we think will give our kids the best choice in life. I hope you kids really benefit from the sacrifice you are making. I could get into long discussions about the morality of what you are doing, but there would be no point, and actually, I do not feel this strongly. I could also get into discussions about just how much difference school environment makes to attainment of kids- but this seems pointless too- as the evidence is at best mixed, and ultimately, your kids are not mine.

      As for truth- I think we all need to decide what there is in our lives that is going to bring meaning. For many of us, it is our kids. Most of us also come to a point where we seek a deeper meaning too- for us, AND our kids. I am not sure what stuff you are finding it difficult to believe, but I think that we might have similar struggles with some of what inherited religious faith can throw at us…

      Finally- what/who are you angry with? The education system? Church? The fellow church goers? Me for having faith in an unknown and mysterious God? God himself? yourself because you are forced to make deceitful choices?

      I hope that you find some peace, whatever.

      Cheers

      Chris

    • Hiya there Dee

      Faith schools often top the inspection charts that is true. If you don’t believe maybe start a campaign to make the secular schools better ?

      The report shows the increased attendance is with younger, and older people, both who in the main aren’t parents. Why would you want you kids to go to a faith school if you are so angry about what they believe, are faith school really that superior ?

      Andy

  2. Pingback: UK church attendance 2010… « this fragile tent

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