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Fresh expressions can buck trend on youth, says report

24 May 2013

by a staff reporter


A "MISSING generation" of young people has grown up outside the Church, with only 11 per cent of regular churchgoers aged between 25 and 34, a new report by the Church Army suggests.

The greatest losses in attendance each year are among teenagers and those in their 20s; but some churches, particularly those involved in Fresh Expressions, are bucking the trend, the Church Army says.

The report, Authentic Faith: Fresh expressions of church amongst young adults, says that some churches are successfully connecting with this generation.

Some of these were traditional churches - often larger ones, which offered more contemporary worship, and were frequently situated in areas with high student populations. The people they attracted tended to be "middle-class, well-educated young adults who previously attended church as children", the author of the report, Beth Keith, said.

The other group of churches that had connected successfully with this generation were fresh expressions of church, where the community was often based around a dining-table rather than in a church building.

The report says: "Churches managing to reach young adults with no previous church experience - and from a broader socio-economic background - will more often see their young adults meeting around a dining table than in a church building, because the getting together for a meal is very important in creating community."

Ms Keith said: "This second group exhibit very different traits and practices; these are churches where eating together is the new 'Sunday service'. For these small communities, access to . . . large vicarages, and community houses, can make a crucial difference to their growth and sustainability.

"Young adults attending these types of churches may struggle to make the leap to more traditional forms of church as they get older. This suggests that the determining factor here is not their age, or life-stage, and that these new forms of church will continue to grow. . .

"The recognition of these small sacramental communities as church is vital, both for the sustainability of these fledgling churches and for the building up of the wider Church."

The report calls on the Church to release empty parsonages to fresh expression groups in order to help them to thrive and grow.

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