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Church attendance statistics and clergy deployment - summary

Statistical analysis by Fiona Tweedy in 2016 set about finding much effect changes in clergy deployment has on church growth?

The research – Going Deeper: Church attendance statistics and clergy deployment – takes account of three factors

  • A parish’s geographical context – rural or urban
  • Growth or decline in the population
  • Size of congregation

The location of a parish, the congregation size, and the population change in the parish all have statistically significant effects on a congregation’s growth.

These are not factors that we can change, but being able to partion out the effects of these factors, we can look in more detail at the effect of other factors such as benefice structure and clergy numbers.

Geography, population growth and congregation size

There are small declines across almost all the benefice structures and area types. Rural villages church have least change while urban city and town and rural town and fringe have most.

Areas with larger increases in population between 2001 and 2011 see higher average standardised growth.

There does not appear to be a large effect of population change between 2001 and 2011. There are many growing church in parishes with falling populations, and many declining churches in rising populations. This effect is less pronounced in more rural areas.

In urban areas, larger congregations are more likely to grow, while in rural areas it is smaller congregations that see more growth.

Clergy grow churches

The number of clergy per church has a significant effect on church growth, in particular the change in the number of stipendiary clergy per church between 2005 and 2011.

An increase in clergy is associated with the likelihood of growth in attendance, while a decrease in clergy is associated to a decline in attendance.

There is no significant difference in church growth with different numbers of churches in a benefice.

Clergy numbers

  • The change in the number of clergy per church in the parish has a significant effect on growth in that parish. Where there is an increase in stipendiary clergy, there is a greater likelihood of growth, decrease in stipendiary clergy is more likely to lead to decline.
  • The number of clergy per church has a significant effect on standardised growth. Having a larger number of clergy in 2001 is associated with more growth in 2006 to 2011.
  • Change in the clergy numbers is a better predictor of growth than the numbers themselves.
  • Changes in clergy numbers appear to have less effect in rural villages and hamlets in comparison with urban areas.

Read Going Deeper: Church attendance statistics and clergy deployment in full.

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