No doubt you'll have seen a number of articles about church attendance following the release of the Church of England attendance figures for 2009. Perhaps you've seen the news that church attendance had risen; or conflicting reports that the church is shrinking and in decline.
I know enough about the world to know that statistics can be used to show anything you like and was therefore unsurprised at conflicting reports. But I also decided I'd like some facts so I went straight to the provisional report and here are the findings that interest me.
The Church of England electoral role (membership) increased by 1.5% in the year from 2008, this is part of a steady increase meaning membership is now only 1% below the high in 1996. Looking locally, the electoral role in the Oxford Diocese has increased by 2%; pretty impressive.
Overall attendance at churches in the Diocese has increased by 1%; Where as the average Sunday attendance has decreased by 1%. This would suggest that other services in the week are being well attended and fit a need in the community.
12% of the children born in the Diocese area came to churches for baptism before their child was 1 year old, a further 8% have their kids baptised before their 12th birthday. This means families are choosing to bring their children to the church, a huge and fantastic act of faith.
Similarly, Confirmations have increased by 5.5% in the Church of England as a whole, with increases both in male and female numbers.
The area where many I speak to think the church is strong is in fact in decline. Again the number of funerals taken in churches has decreases, this has been ongoing for the last 10 years.
The number of weddings in churches has stayed steady at 24% of all the weddings in the country.
and the area that really interested me...
Over 20% of the Sunday attendance and over 25% of the mid week attendance in the Oxford Diocese is children and young people. This is reflected in our own church and is a fantastic sign of health for the church and it's future.
I'd say the Church of England is in good shape; let's celebrate and fling those doors even wider.