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Congregations expect to grow — but few invite others

31 January 2014

ONLY one quarter of Anglicans who responded to a Church Times survey are in the habit of inviting people to church.

Just 27 per cent of laypeople responding to a questionnaire agreed with the proposition: "I often invite other people to come to my church"; 56 per cent disagreed. Six per cent agreed with the proposition: "I would never invite anyone to come to my church."

Despite this, lay people continue to be optimistic about church growth: 40 per cent believed that their church would grow in the next 12 months; 42 per cent were uncertain, and only 18 per cent said that it would not.

Recent figures (News, 17 January) suggest, however, that only 18 per cent of C of E churches are growing.

These are the first results to come from the Church Times survey, conducted last summer and autumn in collaboration with the Revd Professor Leslie Francis, of the Warwick Religions and Education Unit, and Dr Andrew Village, Reader in Practical and Empirical Theology at York St John University. Morethan 4500 responses have been processed.

The clergy, naturally enough, came out as more active evangelists. More than half, 53 per cent, often invited people to church, although 33 per cent admitted that they did not.

Four per cent of clergy respondents said that they would never invite anyone to their church (the survey attracted responses from retired clerics as well as incumbents). Half the clergy respondents expected their church to grow in the next 12 months.

They were less sanguine about the experience of newcomers, however. One quarter of the clergy agreed with the proposition: "It is not easy for newcomers in my church"; 52 per cent disagreed. For the laity, the figures were 19 per cent and 57 per cent.

One reason not to invite people was the nature of the services. Eight per cent across the board said that Sunday worship in their church was "usually boring". Another nine per cent were "not certain".

On the other hand, 74 per cent of laity and 76 per cent of clergy felt that congregation members "cared deeply for one another".

Those who responded were committed churchgoers. A total of 41 per cent of the laity agreed with the statement: "I am going to my church more regularly". Only 13 per cent admitted to going less regularly.

There were indications that congregations are not feeling overstretched. Only 12 per cent agreed that the Church was making too many demands on their time. Only eight per cent thought it made too many demands on their money.

The clergy had a similar view about money, but registered greater time pressure. One fifth, 21 per cent, agreed that: "My church makes too many demands on my time."

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