Thursday, March 21, 2013

The new church, appearing in your neighbourhood

We don't have to resist creeping godlessness, at least not by confronting it head on. We do have to proclaim the gospel in word and deed and to nurture the disciples we make through gospel ministry. That is the way to respond to godlessness!

Some interesting statistics have emerged about church life in Christchurch, statistics which demonstrate gospel ministry is doing, well, better than one might expect in a world of creeping godlessness.

These statistics were presented at a meeting of church leaders on Tuesday morning this week by Ken Shelley (for web access head to Te Raranga, notes from the meeting,  and click on the link there to the Powerpoint presentation, also from that site one can access a Directory of all churches in Chch). Key points (taken from the Powerpoint presentation from Te Raranga, copyright acknowledged):

290 churches

37,629 people attending church on any given Sunday

= 10% proportion of city population

Thus, 15+% of city in church regularly

Attendance by denomination (main players): 21% Catholic, Other 17%, Pentecostal 16%, Anglican 15%, Baptist 13%.*

Other highlights: 60% of churches serve 20% of church attendance; 10% of church attendees go to churches with 800+ worshippers; mean attendance is 130, median attendance is 70; 202/290 have children's ministry; 260/290 have a community facing ministry; 160/290 have a youth ministry; 79/290 churches are damaged.

There is a lot to ponder here. 290 churches means there are plenty of churches in every neighbourhood. Stats re 'Other' and 'Pentecostal' means there are plenty of 'new' churches making their appearances in recent years, yet the largest church, Roman Catholic, is the 'oldest' church in our midst. Anglicans have a few challenges, but nothing to despair about. Overall we are moving into a new church era. One of our challenges is how we work together. The meeting of church leaders on Tuesday, with the development of Te Raranga as the 'forum' through which fellowship in ministry/mission will develop is a good sign that we can work together.

Incidentally, against a backdrop of 290 churches in Christchurch, we do not see where the general liberal or modernist approach to church life has achieved any dominance. If we exclude the Anglican 15% (because difficult to work out which bits conform to that approach and which bits don't) we are still left with Catholic, Other (we can assume that is not liberal/modernist), Pentecostal and Baptist contributing 67% of active Christians in our city. But that does not mean that a conservative approach is what is predominating. It may mean that. But it is also worth thinking about the ways in which a new path is being forged as churches grow and develop in the 21st century.

In the week in which we have seen a new pope inaugurated and a new ABC enthroned (what a terrible word!), Charles Moore, writing in the Telegraph, offers a fascinating interpretation of what the combination of Francis and Justin means (two great names from church history, we might note in passing): a new Christianity,

"Once one understands that this new unity is emerging, it makes the conventional split between liberals and conservatives in the Church seem very out of date. The liberals have lost, because their acceptance of so many non-religious ideas has debilitated their faith and therefore prevented their renewal. But the conservatives have lost too, if by “conservative” one means the old warriors of the Counter-Reformation. The people who are winning are those who share the desire to bring the story of Jesus to what Pope Francis, in his first speech from the balcony of St Peter’s, called “the end of the earth”. He knows a bit about that, because it is where he comes from."

It is good to be in Christchurch (one of the ends of the earth!) at this time, bringing the story of Jesus to people who have never heard it.

*To highlight why our Diocese is considering a structural review of churches in Christchurch city, our 15% is spread across 57 churches, the Baptists 13% across 24 churches, the Catholic 21% across 31 churches while the Other 17% is spread across 65 churches.


Father Ron Smith said...

My only comment here might be to draw our attention to a need for 'quality' of worship, not 'quantity' of devotees. Clapping hands,dancing and extemporaneous prayers don't necessarily cut the mustard. For any who neglect Christ's commission to 'Do this, in Remembrance of me" is, for me, pivotal - especially as we draw near to the dramatic events of Holy week and Easter.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Apart from those churches which historically have never found Christ's eucharistic commandment to be obligatory (Quakers, Salvation Army), I am not aware of any churches in Christchurch which neglect 'Christ's commission.'

I suggest great care be taken when suggesting that people who love our Lord and commit to worshiping him in fellowship with others might be exhibiting 'quantity' rather than 'quality.'

liturgy said...

OK, Peter, I won’t prevaricate: I don’t believe you. Sorry.

What do we think of a study that speaks of churches being, “Methodistic”?

Nearly 50% of “Christchurch City” were in church on Sunday? Sorry. I don’t believe it.

I am not surprised (I suggested it recently) that Roman Catholic church attendance here is well ahead of Anglican. I am interested that 13 of the 57 Anglican Churches have less than 25 present in church on Sunday. I am interested that well over half of Anglican Churches have less than 50 present in church on Sunday.

I don’t believe the statistics. I don’t believe the conclusion.

Our own diocesan statistics have about 6,500 in church in total for the week (not just Sunday – so counting some of the same people over several times) in the whole diocese! That’s for the whole of Canterbury and the West Coast – not just greater Christchurch. That’s about your 15% of the city total already.

Sorry, Peter.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
Your issues are with Ken Shelley who I understand to have worked assiduously with churches in the collecting of this data. I also assume he has worked with the annual diocesan statistics but on what basis I am not sure (average of the last x years?). And I hope he has interpreted our statistics well (e.g. because the last year or two has involved totals lower than true totals because of non-returns by some parishes).

I think Ken is to be congratulated on this fine body of work into which he has put a lot of effort. Has anyone else bothered similarly?

'Methodistic' is a reasonable term (I am guessing) for Methodists belonging to the Methodist Church of NZ and for other Methodists not so belonging.

You mention "50%" as a figure you are sceptical of. I assume you are, in fact, sceptical of the figure of "15%" being in church regularly? (I understand Ken to be saying that on any given Sunday about 10% of Christchurch is in church, but the proportion of the population regularly in church [i.e. not all there once per week] is 15%.

The 10% figure seems about right, and fits with my knowledge of other cities in NZ. There are a of of churches in our city!

PS 600 pupils at your school regularly in church must help the figures!!

liturgy said...

Peter, on slide 16 of the power-point you point us to, 50% of Christchuch City is attending church on Sunday. I will continue not to believe you. Your point about my students only reinforces the hazards of the Anglican methodology used. Following the methodology comes to a monthly attendance of about 10,000.

The population of Greater Christchurch is not, as suggested, 376,000 but about 458,000. That already reduces attendance from 10% to 8%. Furthermore, it would not surprise me, for example, if Anglican figures are inflated by 50% or even more.

As you know, I am all in favour of good statistical analysis. But I echo a comment on statistics from your previous thread: Studies can be produced which will show anything in any area of endeavour, including claims that are simply not credible once common sense and common experience is engaged.

If a few minutes looking over the conclusions highlights such obvious falsehoods – then I cannot rely on the other information provided.




Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
The key figures are "10%" and "15% so that particular figure on a slide towards the end of the slide strikes me as a possible "rogue" figure (except, on thinking further, I assume that Ken Shelley is saying, so to speak, that relatively few people live in the inner city, but a large number of worshippers are found in inner city churches. The difficulty then is that "50%" gives an unfortunate impression about the church going activity of inner city residents rather than a guide to who gets in their car in the suburbs to drive to an inner city church.

I thought the population of Christchurch (post quake etc) had dipped below 400K.

I think the information does have a certain credibility, especially the key figure re 10% attendance, since one looks around one's district and sees and hears of lots of people in church each Sunday. Even if the figure is 8% on closer checking, that does not make "10%" incredible. Incredible would be a claim of "10%" and the reality is, say, "4%".

I am not at all sure that there are "obvious falsehoods" in the way you highlight. The "50%" figure, for example, strikes me as a silly way to represent datat. (But otherwise the graph has a certain interest about what might constitute the "Bible belt" suburbs and so forth.

liturgy said...

The devil, Peter, is precisely in the details. Especially when we are, as I would hope, making significant decisions based, at least in part, on careful statistical analysis.

I don’t know, for example, where your figure of “Christchurch” being less than 400K relates to the church statistics which are measuring “Greater” Christchurch (does your figure, for example, include the Peninsula?)

We have recently been told that two studies show at least 20% of Kiwis are in church at least monthly. If you are willing to drop to say 7% in church on Sunday & 10% monthly – then that difference with the touted 20% is close to the 4% -10% difference that you would regard as an issue!

My own recent broad brushstroke has that attendance in our diocese has approximately halved in the last 15 years. But the number of paid clergy has remained approximately stable. If we are dropping by about 5% pa. that may suddenly surprise us by its acceleration. There are some who contend that “when our baboushkas move on to their eternal reward there will always be new baboushkas who will take their place.” I’m not so sanguine. It relates to Jethro’s studies – are the baboushkas converts or reverts, and if the latter, hence, my previous question here about church schools as one part of our strategic planning.

It is, at this juncture, not so much about glasses half full or half empty; this is a key time to be asking whether the glass is the right container at all – and being confused about the amount of water (let alone the purpose of the water) may ruin the quenching of many in the future.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I myself would have thought that the 20% figure was a bit on the high side!

In the end, one would need to find the detail from which Ken Shelley has made his statistical graphs.

I am not aware that the Diocese of Christchurch in its structural review is relying heavily on his statistical analysis.

I view the fall in diocesan attendance statistics with concern. I hope the Structural Review has made recommendations which account for these realities. I hope, more importantly, that Synod can process their recommendations in the light of reality.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

I looked at the interactive map of the north-west of the city (which is the area I am the most familiar with). I notice that both the Bryndwr and Burnside Anglican churches are not listed, though Harewood and Bishopdale are included.

It's not a small oversight really - 2 out of 4, especially when the two omitted contain the larger congregations!

Actually, there is a church congregation pinpointed on the Burnside church site, but it is an ethnic congregation that makes use of their premises.

I applaud the attempt to wrangle the data - and the broader conclusions may still hold, but it raises questions for me about the quality of the data sources.