Diocese of Oxford

'We may not be called in this generation to be a bigger church,' bishop's response to declining numbers

Thu 17 Oct 2019
By Marcus Jones

As the Church of England continues to see a fall in congregation numbers, one of its bishops is warning against linking morale to size.

Bishop of Oxford Dr Steven Croft has been speaking after the Statistics for Mission 2018 report, released on Thursday, showed the Church now has 1.12 million regular worshippers - a ten per cent fall on a decade ago.

Usual Sunday attendance sits at 703,000 while Christmas continues to draw in big numbers with 2.42 million attending services over the festive period.

 

Numbers for baptisms, funerals and weddings also continued to fall.

Speaking to Premier, Bishop Steven said: "What the Church mustn't do is connect its morale to its size, or the trajectory of its graph. Our morale and hope is rooted in Christ and the promise of the gospel not in the particular size of our congregations.

"We may not be called in this generation to be a bigger church. I believe we are called to be a more Christ like church and a deeper church and it's there that we need to focus our energies whilst being as open and accessible as we can to the whole community and serve the whole nation."

Figures show that one in three churches are now offering a course for seekers such as Alpha but just 25 per cent are providing regular youth work.

The stats have been released on the same day as the Church celebrates growth through its digital reach.

Its prayer apps were used more than five million times over the last year while the website AChurchNearYou.com which helps users find a church received more than 38 million page views in the last 12 months.

The Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, said: "The digital figures show how people are using apps, smart speakers and social media to explore and engage in the Christian faith wherever they might be.

"Christians have been praying the morning and evening offices for centuries and it is inspiring that this is available through new platforms and devices to meet the way people live now.

"The Church's digital innovation is enabling people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ in ways that weren't previously possible alongside regular Sunday worship and at significant moments such as Christmas and Easter."

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