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Changing Church

Philip McMillan Philip McMillan
4 min

On Monday 17th January Stewardship hosted a webinar looking at the results of the Autumn 2021 Changing Church Survey. We thought this summary would be a useful guide and a stimulus for the discussion.

In the Autumn of 2021, the Evangelical Alliance, in association with Stewardship and the research company EIDO, carried out the third Changing Church survey since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the period following the Delta variant, during which churches had started to reopen for collective worship. As the survey was completed by individuals voluntarily, we cannot assume that the results are fully representative of the UK church. However, the information gleaned from the 552 church leaders and 1676 individuals who took part in the survey does allow us to create a general picture of how things are in the Church UK-wide.  The results were published in November 2021, prior to the arrival of the Omicron variant, and this article was written in mid December 2021 just as Omicron started to take hold across the UK.

The survey showed that people’s attitudes towards church attendance seems to be changing. While there are more people attending church at least once per month, the survey showed fewer people are attending every week, with people continuing to make use of live online streaming or watching recordings of services at another time. Interestingly, ‘13% of church members said they are no longer attending the church that they attended before the pandemic. 9% are attending a different church in person. 2% are attending a different church online and 3% are not attending any church at all’.

Volunteering

Church leaders reported that they are finding it more difficult to recruit volunteers: ‘59% of church leaders perceived a decrease in volunteering… with 25% describing a significant decrease’. 31% of church attenders indicated that they had reduced the amount of time and number of activities that they volunteer for in their church.

It was something of a concern to see that ‘24% of churches who offered youth ministry before the Covid-19 pandemic, are not currently offering youth ministry.’ And ‘17% of churches who offered children’s ministry before the Covid-19 pandemic. Are not currently offering children’s ministry.’ We be discuss these facts and other data during the Changing Church webinar.

Giving

60% of church leaders report a decrease in congregational giving’ while only 15% reported an increase in giving. Interestingly, church attenders presented us with a different picture, with ‘64% saying that their giving has stayed the same and 24% [reporting] an increase in their financial giving to their church.’ But 74% of church leaders ‘anticipate a decrease in congregational giving in the next three months’. We now wonder how much the Omicron variant will also impact this figure. We talk more about giving to churches during the Changing Church webinar.

Leadership Wellbeing

Surveys can turn up some intriguing information. It is generally recognised that church leaders are operating under increased stress and many church attendees find themselves in similar circumstances. However, ‘68% of church leaders… felt their emotional wellbeing was either good or very good’ and 69% of church attendees responded likewise. This has raised a few eyebrows and is one of the subject areas highlighted in the Changing Church webinar.

Evangelism

Of the respondents, ‘on average, individuals had spoken to six people who are not Christians about faith in the previous three months’ and it is generally acknowledged that there is a greater willingness for the general public to talk about spiritual things. Wales, for example, ‘has changed from being one of the lowest to one of the highest regions when it comes to people attending a course explaining Christianity. Also, younger church leaders are seeing more people come to faith than they did before the pandemic.’ We discuss church based evangelistic trends during the Changing Church Webinar.

Social Outreach

Finally, ‘Churches continue to serve their communities across a range of social activities’. The survey revealed that ‘61% are involved in foodbanks and nutrition work, 50% are befriending the elderly and isolated, 37% are supporting their local schools and 32% are involved in mental health work.’ These are impressive statistics reinforcing the argument that the church is not sitting on its hands while their neighbours are in need. During the Changing Church webinar, we discuss how the church is impacting communities.

Watch the webinar here.

All text in italics are direct quotations from the Changing Church, Autumn 2021 Survey: Research Report.

An online copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded from: Changing Church: autumn 2021 report - Evangelical Alliance (eauk.org)

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Written by

Philip McMillan

Philip is Stewardship’s Partnership Manager in Northern Ireland where he works with donors and recipients, engages with churches and organisations and promotes the full range of Stewardship’s services. He is committed to equipping and supporting Stewardship partners to be effective in their giving and management. He has a particular interest in helping organisations develop governance skills in the charity sector.

Prior to joining Stewardship Philip was engaged in cross cultural mission, fundraising and donor advice. In 2005 together with his wife Deborah they established a charity FONIC Trust that supports church-based ministries in Nepal.

Philip is a member of Kings Church, Bangor. He chairs Northern Ireland’s Mission Agencies Partnership (Global Connections entity in N.I), is a member of the Tearfund UK Council and sits on several ministry boards and advisory groups. On his days off you will find him either working on his allotment or feeding his chickens!

Philip is passionate about indigenous ministry support. international development and evangelism, particularly in the business community.

 

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