22 January 2010
The latest local church
attendance figures from the Church of England show that around
1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services
each month, and around 1.1 million attend church as part of a
typical week - and not just on a Sunday.
The total number of adults, children and young people
regularly attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall
in the six years since 2002, with the 2008 figures showing a drop
of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in
2007. The number of under 16s increased by three per cent over the
year, returning to two per cent below their 2002 level.
People continue to attend church on other days than
Sunday. For every 50 people attending church or cathedrals on
a typical Sunday, another 10 attend during the week and an extra 37
in total over a month.
The Revd Lynda Barley, the Church of England's Head of Research
and Statistics, comments: "The figures released today, covering
regular local church attendees, give an important but inevitably
partial snapshot of today's Church. They paint a mixed picture for
2008. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under
16s in church increasing and growth in church attendance in 14 out
of 44 dioceses, are some disappointments, with further small
declines in traditional attendance measures. Excluded from these
figures are Fresh Expressions, chapel services in hospitals,
education and other establishments, some international
congregations and the projects funded by the Youth Evangelism
"It is important to see these trends in the context of wider
changes in a society where fewer people are willing to join and
take part in membership organizations. Political parties have seen
their memberships fall by around 40 per cent in recent years. Even
in a General Election year, almost double the number of members of
the three main political parties taken together will attend a
Church of England parish church on Sunday."
- In summary: Average weekly attendance was down slightly at
1,145,000 (2007: 1,160,000; 2006: 1,163,000), as was average Sunday
attendance at 960,000 (2007: 978,000; 2006: 983,000) and average
monthly attendance at 1,667,000 (2007: 1,690,000; 2006: 1,694,000).
The average number of children and young people at services each
week rose by three per cent to 225,000 (2207: 219,000; 2006:
228,000). The number of children and young people attending on a
monthly basis also grew three per cent to 438,000 (2007: 424,000;
Marking life events
The total number of baptisms remained stable, with increases in
the number of 'child' and 'adult' baptisms (those aged one year and
older). The number of 'infant' baptisms (under one year old) fell
by two per cent. The number of Thanksgivings for the birth of a
child fell by five per cent.
The number of marriages taking place in parish churches fell by
three per cent to 53,100 (significant changes to marriage law which
widened the number of churches where couples are eligible to be
married did not take effect until October 2008 and their effect is
not, therefore, fully reflected in these figures). Blessings of
marriages following a civil ceremony fell (by three per cent, to
4,400). The total number of weddings in the UK in 2008 has not yet
been published, although numbers have been falling by around three
per cent each year in recent years.
The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England
also dropped (by three per cent, to 188,100), particularly those
taking place in crematoria (by five per cent, to 93,600); this is
against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of
deaths fell by 1.4 per cent between 2007 and 2008).
More than nine in ten Church of England parish churches
completed attendance counts, representing the highest participation
rate ever. These have been verified across all 16,000 Church
of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of
the Archbishops' Council. The provisional figures can be seen on
the web at: www.cofe.anglican.org/info/statistics/2008provisionalattendance.pdf.
The trend detected in recent years whereby attendance dips when
Christmas Day falls on a weekday continued in 2008, with attendance
over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day remaining similar to that in
2007. Attendances and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday
fell by around four per cent against 2007.
- In summary: Attendance at Church of England local church
services on Christmas Eve/Day 2008 remained broadly similar at
2,647,200 (2007: 2,656,800; 2006: 2,994,100). These figures do not
include the large number attending at other services related to
Christmas ,for example, carol services during Advent. Easter
observance dropped back by three per cent to 1,415,800 (2007:
1,469,000; 2006: 1,484,700).
The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish
churches remained stable, as expected following the major revision
reported in 2007's statistics. The historic 'usual Sunday
attendance' measure (see note below for definition) fell three per
cent to 845,000 (2007: 868,000; 2006: 871,000).
Separate research published today surveying the diversity of
Church of England congregations, called Celebrating Diversity
in the Church of England, is available at: www.cofe.anglican.org/about/gensynod/agendas/feb2010/gsmisc/gsmisc938.doc.
Expressions is a movement led by the Church of England and
the Methodist Church to nurture contemporary forms of church life
alongside traditional ones (www.freshexpressions.org.uk). Fresh
Expressions are being formed in a variety of ways, from new
congregations targeting particular groups such as Goths, to café
churches and skateboard parks.
** The Youth Evangelism Fund is supported by the
Archbishops' Council (50 per cent), the Henry Smith Charity, the
Laing Family Trusts, and the Jerusalem Trust. It aims to enable
more young people to connect with the Gospel and develop faith
within the life of the Church by allowing young people to share
faith with their peers in ways that make sense to them. Each year
for five years, eight to 10 dioceses are receiving YEF support to
resource new ideas for mission.
Membership of the three main political parties has fallen from a
total of c.781,000 in 2000, to c.476,000 in 2008. Taken from House
of Commons Library research paper, August 2009:
Definition of terms
Average Sunday attendance: the average number of
attendees at Sunday church services, typically over a four-week
period in October.
Average weekly attendance: the average number of
attendees at church services throughout the week, typically over a
four-week period in October.
Each of the above measures is provided separately for adults and
children/young people aged under 16 years. The highest and lowest
counts over the four-week period are calculated as follows:
Highest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the
highest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period. The
'highest' figures on the accompanying tables are proxies (in fact
under-estimates) for monthly attendance levels.
Lowest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the lowest
Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period.
Attendance figures are only included where local churches held
at least one church-based service (which included adult presence)
during the week under examination.
The traditional usual Sunday attendance (uSa) measure
is interpreted differently across the dioceses and is therefore not
regarded as statistically accurate as a comparison.