Monday, April 28, 2008

A Good Diocesan Website, Mission Action Plans, and Diocesan Growth (or not)

Stumbled across the Norwich Diocese website today, including an excellent & simple links page to resources on worship and discipleship. The links on Bible study and leadership need developing, but the discipleship one was excellent - offering a breakdown of most of the discipleship/Christian basics courses on the market, what they're about and what the sessions cover. A different section of the website has links to all sorts of church growth resources.

Norwich says it's "Committed to Growth", and is one of an increasing number of Dioceses who are encouraging their parishes to develop mission action plans - though they don't all call them that. Unfortunately there isn't really enough research in the public domain to know how well MAP's work - there seems to have been positive experience in York, Blackburn and Lichfield dioceses, but most have only recently started to use them. London have been using MAP's for 15 years, though Bob Jackson isn't sure how much of a factor they've played in the growth of that diocese.

There isn't any doubt that London is growing though. Despite the complex and serpentine presentation of the CofE national stats, here are the top 5 dioceses for 2001-6, in terms of growth in total weekly attendance (adults and children)

London 12.9%
Gloucester 2.2%
Canterbury 2.1%
Southwark 1.6%
Winchester 1.4%

5 other dioceses have grown on this measure during the 01-06 period (Newcastle, Hereford, York, Manchester, St. Albans), which means that 33 have shrunk. The bottom 4 are all Northern - Liverpool, Sheffield, Durham and Blackburn.

Taking childrens attendance on its own, the picture is better: 7 dioceses have held steady, and 16 have grown. Worcester, Salisbury, Coventy and Canterbury have all seen growth of over 20%, another 5 have seen growth of 10% or more (Southwell, London, St. Albans, Southwark and Winchester).

By the law of averages, if the picture among children is better, that for adult attendance is worse, with only 7 dioceses growing, and only London growing by more than 3% (11.7%). The Northern dioceses do a bit better here, with York, Manchester and Newcastle growing, and Wakefield holding steady.

As I've said, its frustrating to have to work with figures which are 2 years out of date. Bob Jacksons work (see link above) does a far better job than I could of explaining why London has bucked the trend. The main factor he identifies is Diocesan leadership, with a 15-year long commitment to mission which has included MAP's, but covers appointment strategy, money, resources, encouraging church planting, and a host of other things.

Being an online dummy, I can't post the Excel file with the 2001-6 comparisons in, but if you want a copy let me know.


  1. thanks for the kind words, is "remarkable" not a bit strong? :)

    this year was my 21st consecutive year at SH, started in 1988 and met my wife there in 1989, continues to be an important event for us as a family (now with kids aged 9,7,4)

  2. I remarked on it, and so......!!

    Seriously, I thought it was great, excellent mix of stuff, well presented, thought provoking etc. etc.

    21 years! you should be giving the talks by now... Maybe you are!