Thursday, March 13, 2014

Anecdote to Evidence - Church Growth Research - 1 A4 page summary

From Anecdote To Evidence: Findings from the Church Growth Research Programme 2011-3 – 32 page PDF free to download
1 Corinthians 3:6
My summary of some of the most interesting / relevant bits

C of E - Church Commissioners & Archbishop’s Council – towards evidence based decision making
Where is there numerical growth and why? But N.B. correlation not necessarily causation

“There is no single recipe for growth; there are no simple solutions to decline. The road to growth
depends on the context, and what works in one place may not work in another. What seems crucial is that congregations are constantly engaged in reflection; churches cannot soar on autopilot. Growth is a product of good leadership (lay and ordained) working with a willing set of churchgoers in a favourable environment.”

Overall statistics show a decline of 9% in all age average weekly attendance over the past decade. 18% of churches grew; 55% remained stable and 27% declined.

Factors associated with growth:
·         Good leadership especially motivating, envisioning and innovating but also engaging with outsiders, training in ministry and mission and some of the factors mentioned elsewhere
·         A clear mission and purpose
·         Willingness to self-reflect, to change and adapt according to context. Deliberate choices.
·         Involvement of lay members including younger and more recent members and some change in roles
·         Being intentional in prioritising growth, in chosen style of worship and in nurturing disciples

·         A church with no children or under 16s is very likely to be in decline. Churches which offer programmes for children and teenagers are more likely to grow. Churches with children and young people are twice as likely to grow. Worship services designed for children, youth programmes and church schools are associated with growth. ¾ of churches that offer retreats, conferences or camps for youth report growth, against half among those who do not. “There is an urgent need to focus on children, young people and their parents and a challenge to identify how the church can best invest in people, programmes and strategies which will encourage young people actively to continue exploring faith.” Employing a youth / children’s worker is associated with growth. Engaging young people around adolescence and early adulthood is crucial. Evidence shows that those who belong in their 20s will probably stay for the rest of their lives – but if they don’t, it will be hard to bring them in. Decline in church attendance is not mainly because adults stop going, they never start going in the first place. The challenge could be seem as to reach and especially retain children and young people.  
·         The strategy of grouping multiple churches together under one leader has in general had a detrimental effect on church growth. Multi-church amalgamations and teams are less likely to grow. Churches are more likely to grow when there is one leader for one community. More churches makes decline more likely. In larger amalgamations, clergy tend to focus on admin, buildings and sustaining Sunday worship, which can distract from factors associated with growth.
·         Consistency and clarity over the chosen style of worship and chosen theological tradition wholeheartedly adopted are associated with growth.
·         Attendance is often highest as a proportion of the population in rural areas where growth is hard to achieve.
·         There is a strong correlation between those clergy who prioritise numerical growth and those clergy whose churches grew in numbers.
·         Successful churches say “let’s have a go!”, try different initiatives as an experiment, invest in what works, drop what doesn’t.
·         Growing churches actively engage with those who don’t come to church and the wider community.
·         Churches that use Facebook and other social media are more likely to be growing!
·         Good welcome and follow up of visitors is important. The most direct route to growth comes from members inviting and welcoming family, friends and acquaintances.
·         Growing churches offer evangelistic, discipleship & ministry training courses.
·         Fresh Expressions such as Messy Church have been an important area of growth.
·         Churches with fewer than 30 members have the best rates of growth. Churches from 50-300 members tend to decline. Churches over 300 tend to grow.

Other factors that contribute to decline:
·         Burdensome buildings though improving the building can contribute to growth.
·         Stagnation, doing things by default rather than deliberate choice, which brings variety and vitality.
·         Clergy characteristics such as “empathising”, “persisting” and “managing” are less helpful for growth. Clergy must be flexible and sometimes push people to change.
·         Church members unwilling to change or get involved or leaving everything to the clergy.

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