Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Does Parish Mission Funding Work?

Matt Wardman just posted me this link, which is a paper by Bob Jackson on the effect of mission funding in Lichfield Diocese. The CofE has made millions available over the last few years to new projects at local level, each Diocese gives it a different name, but it goes towards mission and development work (usually). In Lichfield, £800,000 has been spent on 91 separate projects. 49 new paid posts have been supported with the funding

29 churches had funding and posts/new equipment in place early enough for there to be an effect on the church by 2006. Jackson writes:

Average Sunday attendance of adults rose in these 29 churches from 2733 in 2005 to 2794, an increase of 61 or 3%. This compares with an historic average fall of 3% pa, and an average fall in churches not receiving a grant of around 0.5% in 2006.

But many of the awards were aimed at children and teenagers, so we should expect a bigger impact here. Average Sunday attendance of under-16s rose from 604 in 2005 to 662 in 2006, an increase of 58 or 10%. This compares with an historic annual decline of 5-10% pa, and an average fall in churches not receiving a grant of around 0.5% in 2006.

Therefore it already looks as though the grants are having a significant difference, even on the Sunday attendance figures, and especially on the attendance of children.

Trying to separate out the impact of grants in the three main categories (posts, equipment and events) is fraught with difficulty as the numbers get too low to be statistically significant. However, the churches receiving the equipment grants do seem to have had the biggest numbers growth. Adults went up by 7% and children by 20%. This may not be surprising as many of them have very quickly installed new equipment and then started their ‘Fresh Expression’ style service with it.

Grants for events, including missions and alpha courses, however do not so far seem to be associated with significant attendance growth. These enable ‘one-offs’ whereas the equipment, once in place, enables weekly or monthly events to continue. If the monitoring continues to show this distinction we may wish in future to concentrate more on equipment grants.

There's also a brief case study of several churches, what they've used the money for, and what effect this has had. Well worth a look, especially if you have anything to do with handing this money out, or you're thinking of applying for it. A Powerpoint with the headlines from the report can be found here.

If you want a full list of the kind of stuff the mission funding is being used for, this Excel file from Start the Week lists the hundreds of projects supported so far.

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