Statistics evening brings encouragements and challengesTuesday 25 September 2018
Statistician Dr Bev Botting brought some good news and some challenges to Down and Dromore Synod members at a meeting in Belvoir Parish Church on Monday evening.
Dr Botting, who is Head of research and Statistics for the Church of England, was sharing her findings after analysing all the data available to the diocese. The statistics were based on the NI state census (2011), the annual Easter Vestry returns and the 2016 Church of Ireland Census.
In her presentation Dr Botting gave a picture of the diocese overall but each parish was also given an individual ‘dashboard’ which they had an opportunity to discuss on the night.
- Attendance at worship across the diocese has increased by 4% between 2013 and 2016.
- The income of the churches in the diocese has remained consistent overall.
- The number of children attending has increased which is encouraging for growth.
- However, attendance numbers in the 15–29 age bracket are decreasing.
- The numbers of over 60s attending has stabilised, perhaps indicating the start of a re–balancing in the age profile of worshippers.
- One fifth of all those attending the Church of Ireland in the whole island are worshiping in Down and Dromore.
- The statistics on Occasional Offices (funerals, baptisms and weddings) show that the Church of Ireland is with families at key moments on their lives.
- More men come to church on Remembrance Sunday than on any other, highlighting the missional possibilities of this service.
Parish representatives had the opportunity to ask questions and chat over some of the findings with Dr Botting but they also discussed the following key questions in their groups:
- In what ways does your congregation reflect (or not) the local population?
- How are children integrated into your worship services?
- What does your Church offer for 15 to 29 year olds
- How can this information help your mission and outreach?
The statistics also raise some issues for the future collection of data. It’s notable, for example, that although Sunday school numbers have been falling we know that children’s work in our parishes and church plants is thriving. How can we measure and celebrate that important work?
How do we measure worship during Advent – a time when families want the church to be part of their Christmas, just not necessarily on Christmas Day?
Although financial giving has held up, might we measure if it is keeping pace with inflation?
We know that people are attending less often because there are other demands on their time on a Sunday, including work. How can we define and measure the size of the worshiping community – those that identify with a church and come at least once a month?
We hope that it was a useful and encouraging evening which was, as Dr Botting said, “first and most importantly about celebrating the good work that’s going on in the parishes of the diocese. We need to remember that these numbers represent people. They tell us about the people that live and worship in our parishes and that’s where the power of the statistics lies.”