Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Shall we try moving the furniture one last time?

Peter Brierley is one of the most astute, accurate and faith-affirming observers of statistical trends in British (mainly English) Christianity. So his observations on the 2011 census data repay careful consideration. You can sign up for his excellent bimonthly report from the frontline here.

His analysis of the age profile of church goers makes for sobering reading. A third are over 65 and another third are over 40. Given life expectancy of c80 years, the likelihood is that on current trends the number of church goers in England will have more than halved by 2030 (a drop of 58% is predicted for Anglicans and other denominations and streams are likely to follow the same path).

The drop in those self-identifying as Christian in 2011 census of 11% could be accounted for by the death rate among church goers over the decade since 2001 rather than a loss of faith by the living.

Only a third of church goers are under 40 and given that church goers as a whole comprise less than 10% of the population, you don't need to be a mathematician to work out that things don't look good.

His analysis of the data bears out David Voas' observation that secularisation works between rather than within generations. As the older, more religious generations die out, so the prevailing landscape becomes more secular.

This is a missional challenge. How will we reach those under 40 with the good news about Jesus? My suspicion is that our current ways of working, models of church, patterns of ministry and mission are not going to cut it.

We don't have that long to answer this question either as the older generations tend to be the ones who fund the church's programmes. They are the richest generation Britain has ever known; younger church goers do not have the amounts of disposable income to commit to church coffers that their parents and grandparents had - nor the inclination to shore up declining institutions.

So, we're running out of time and money - what an amazing missional challenge; will we rise to it or try rearranging the deckchairs on the titanic on last time?

1 comment:

justin said...

When churches have for years relied heavily on youth work for outreach, but now are afraid of unchurched youth; and outsiders are keen to protect their children from the church; yet churches are wrapped up policy based on fear; there is far more depth to the demographic issue than your source recognizes.