Thursday, November 27, 2008

37,000 back to church

...according to Back to Church Sunday, based on data from 1/5 of the 3,000 churches taking part. Report here, BTCS website here. Ht Dave W's church times blog. That's quite a number, and it'll be interesting to see if the quality of welcome, fellowship etc. is such that they stay, or realise that they'd been staying away for good reason!!

Based on research by Richter & Francis, Mission Shaped Church estimated that 35-40% of UK residents have some kind of church backgrounds (though that number is shrinking), but no longer come to church. These are folk who come to Christmas services, know some of the songs and the Bible, and could come to church without it all feeling completely alien.

MSC argued that half of these might be open to returning. However, TEAR fund came up with a much lower figure in its research last year. Instead of there being 20% of 'open de-churched' (to use the jargon) it reckoned there was only 5%. Still, that's over 2m people that back to church Sunday can work for, and it's clearly helped many of them. Here's the Tear Fund chart

Speaking to a local youth team yesterday, we used a simpler version the above graphic and asked them to mark on it where they did most of their mission work. It was encouraging to see a lot of splodges on the left hand side of the chart. Most Christian outreach, such as BTCS, Alpha, etc., is of the 'come to us' variety which mainly connects with the fringe/occasional/open de-churched segment, which is a small and shrinking chunk of the whole.

I'm looking forward to the day when we get a 3-D version of the chart which shows people's attitude to spirituality, faith and prayer. Lots of people who don't go to church pray regularly, and defining things in terms of their contact with the church can give the false impression that God is only at work within the church. When we actually talk and listen to people, we often discover that He's been there way ahead of us, and that what people have rejected is not God, but the church and the cultural trappings which grow like brambles around the gospel, or the hurtful mistakes of Christians which have practiced the opposite of what was preached.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting data from Tear Fund. I suspect a lot of the "de-churched" have stopped attending because they have been hurt, or at least feel that they have, by the church. So they will not return if the hurt is not dealt with, which makes them the closed de-churched. These people are probably more resistant than the closed non-churched, who are probably just not interested but may become so if approached in the right way. It's good to hear that at least your youth team is pursuing these non-churched.