GIVING in the Church of England's parishes has reached record
levels, new statistics suggest.
The Archbishops' Council's finance statistics for 2012 were
published yesterday. They refer to income generated by the Church's
12,500 parishes, as distinct from funds provided centrally by the
Parish income in 2012 was £929 million, the highest ever level.
This was the first year since 2007 when there was a surplus, £0.2
million, compared with the £60 million generated in 2007, before
the economic downturn. But, although donor income has risen at the
same slow rate since 2007, this increase has not matched inflation;
so, in real terms, parish income has fallen - by 12 per cent since
On average, tax-efficient planned givers gave about £11 per
week, a rise of 3.4 per cent compared with 2011. Total donor income
increased by just 0.4 per cent, owing to lower levels of Gift Aid
payments from HM Revenue and Customs, and slightly fewer regular
donors (down by 0.8 per cent to 490,600).
"Overall, I think it is good news, in that everybody who is
giving is being very generous and increasing their giving: folk
have never given so much before," the Church of England's national
stewardship adviser, Dr John Preston, said on Tuesday. He noted,
however, that the average proportion of income given (3.4 per cent)
was lower than the official church target of five per cent. "One
thing that is definitely true is that those who are poorer tend to
give more as a percentage of income," he said.
A survey of 1500 donors referred to by Dr Preston suggests that,
on average, about half of a parish's income is given by about 20
per cent of those who give.
"You do see considerable variation from one church to another,"
he said. "Those doing stewardship well will have higher levels of
giving. . . . What we need to talk about is vision. Then, people
get excited; they get bored hearing about cost. We are not always
good at talking about impact and outcomes. We need to be saying:
'When you give to this chuch you are enabling grieving people to be
comforted, children to hear assemblies, youth work, enabling it to
be open as a spiritual space."
Looking forward, Dr Preston was confident that "church folk will
stay commited and generous," but he warned that, "if attendance
continues to decline, then there is increasing pressure on existing
givers, and we will continue to struggle to grow."
Funding for growth. A cash boost of £4.6
million has been awarded by the Church Commissioners and the
Archbishops' Council to five dioceses that impressed them with
their proposals to reverse numerical decline in church
In a competitive process, dioceses were invited to submit bids
to the Spending Plans Task Group, which has the job of allocating
the Strategic Development Funding: a new stream of money dedicated
to achieving growth.
The five successful dioceses - Birmingham, Chelmsford,
Leicester, Liverpool and Sheffield - are all in the lowest quartile
of deprivation. The projects reflect the commitment of the
Commissioners to tackling the numerical decline depicted in the
recent research report From Anecdote to Evidence (News,
17 January). A willingness to learn from the corporate world is
also suggested in the language used to describe the projects.
In the diocese of Chelmsford, for example, funding will be given
to turn around parishes "offering the greatest potential, based on
a statistical analysis of a range of strategic and financial
performance factors, and other characteristics".