03 February 2011
The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of
England show that approaching 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
The total number of adults, children and young people attending
local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the seven years
since 2002, with the 2009 figures showing a drop of one per cent
against the number attending on an average week in 2008. The total
number of under 16s was virtually unchanged compared to 2008 and
remained more than two percent higher than 2002.
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
2009. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under
16s in church holding steady and growth in church attendance in 16
out of 44 dioceses, there are continued challenges, with further
small declines in traditional attendance measures. Churches
continue to be central to community life and are responding
positively to changes in modern day lifestyles with a growing range
of opportunities to participate in church life. 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 remains important to see these trends in the context of
wider changes in a society where fewer people join and take part in
membership organizations. 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 a
Sunday. Nevertheless, the figures are a further reminder of the
importance, highlighted in the report - Challenges for the
Quinquennium - which Synod will be debating next week, of
achieving sustained numerical and spiritual growth over the coming
In summary: Average weekly attendance was down
slightly at 1,131,000 (2008: 1,145,000; 2007: 1,160,000), as was
average monthly attendance at 1,651,000 (2008: 1,667,000; 2007:
1,690,000). while average Sunday attendance dropped two per cent to
944,000 (2008: 960,000; 2007: 978,000) The average number of
children and young people at services each week was slightly down
at 223,000 (2008: 225,000; 2007: 219,000). The number of children
and young people attending on a monthly basis was virtually
unchanged at 436,000 (2008: 438,000; 2007: 424,000), while
other research reveals that a further 375,000 attend other church
Marking life events
The total number of baptisms dropped one per cent, with
increases in the number of 'child' and 'adult' baptisms (those aged
one year and older) of three per cent and six per cent,
respectively. The number of 'infant' baptisms (under one year old)
fell by three per cent. The number of Thanksgivings for the birth
of a child fell by two per cent.
The number of marriages taking place in parish churches was down
one per cent at 52,700. Blessings of marriages following a
civil ceremony fell (by nine per cent, to 3,900). The total number
of weddings in the UK in 2009 has not yet been published, although
numbers have been falling gradually in recent years.
The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England
also dropped (by six per cent, to 176,700), particularly those
taking place in crematoria (by nine per cent, to 85,600); this is
against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of
deaths fell by 3.5 per cent between 2008 and 2009).
Nine in ten Church of England parish churches completed
attendance counts. 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.
Widespread snow and ice badly effected Christmas Day attendances
in 2009, with some churches forced to cancel services. Attendances
and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday were little changed
In summary: Attendance at Church of England
local church services on Christmas Eve/Day 2009 was down nine per
cent at 2,420,600 (2008: 2,647,200; 2007: 2,656,800). These figures
do not include the large number attending at other services related
to Christmas, for example, Christingle and carol services during
Advent. Easter observance was little changed at 1,411,200 (2008:
1,415,800; 2007: 1,469,000).
The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish
churches rose one per cent from 1,179,000 to 1,197,000. The
historic 'usual Sunday attendance' measure (see note below for
definition) fell two per cent to 826,000 (2008: 845,000; 2007:
* Fresh Expressions is a movement led by the Church of
England and the Methodist Church to nurture contemporary forms of
church life alongside traditional ones (http://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 fell 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.
According to the Office of National Statistics, 72 per cent
affiliate themselves with Christianity and of those who affiliate
with Christianity, 32 per cent are practising. The data comes from
the Citizenship Survey 2008/9 and Social Trends.
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.