In January churches around England are asked to submit statistics about attendance, baptisms etc for the previous year. The figures go into a big number cruncher and local and national statistics are later issued.
Statistics reveal a downward pattern in Church of England attendances in England. In the period 2012 to 2017 attendances in churches in Manchester Diocese decreased by 20%, and in 2018 the decrease was a further 6%. Nationally there is also a decline, – in the region of 3%.
Of course, patterns of church going change, and Sunday attendance is only one indicator, albeit a very significant one. Attendance at Christmas services in England has risen over the years, and the Church of England’s outreach on social media has notably increased.
At St Chrysostom’s far from decreasing – Sunday attendances in 2019 showed an increase of 5% over 2018. The average number attending each week rose to 84. (This is the average of total attendances for all Sundays).
This figure includes Sundays when there were particularly large congregations (Carol service for example). If we remove such Sundays from the calculation, we get an average attendance of 69 for a ‘normal’ Sunday. (Again an increase). Digging deeper we get a standard deviation of 8 for this figure, meaning Sunday attendances on a ‘normal’ Sunday usually lie in the range 61 to 77.
Of course not everyone comes every week, and so the number of people who come is actually significant higher (and more difficult to work out). St Chrysostom’s has a very significant transience factor. We calculate that our turnover rate is about 20-30% per year – mainly due to the nature of the community we serve. This means that over a year the congregation will change by about 25%.
We are so pleased that our age profile continues to be young, especially compared with many congregations. The majority of the congregation are under 45 years old, and we remain an ethnically very varied congregation.
On social media outreach has also increased in 2019. The number of members of our Church Facebook Group has increased by 5% to 304. Our twitter followers have increased to 2,180, a 16% increase in the year. Our newsletter contributors has remained the same – a slight increase of 0.25% to 351. We put less energy into our blog in 2018 and that was reflected in a 16% decrease in ‘hits.’ The blog has 127 hits/ day, on average. (Staff hits are excluded).
We had an additional three lay ministers authorised in 2019 and we continue to produce ordinands for the priesthood. Confirmations rose in 2019 to 18 (there were 11 in 2018), and adult baptisms, of those new to Christian faith increased too.
All of which is encouraging and hopeful, and certainly means we need not panic! St Chrysostom’s is a growing church. The results clearly show that an inclusive welcome, quality worship of the Anglo Catholic tradition, hard work, and pastoral care bear fruit and indeed can defy the current trend in church attendance.
Over the coming months here on our church blog we’ll be reflecting further on the shape of the church to come, and how we can expect the Church and the local church to change and develop over the coming years.