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How Are We Growing?

Andrew Nicholson introduces us to the latest figures from the FIEC Data Survey which we collated at the end of 2017. There are three big headlines to help shape our work and ministry.

How Are We Growing? primary image

Three years ago we asked our family of churches to provide us with statistics about their congregations and ministry. As the first detailed survey for over a decade, it helped us refine our gospel priorities and decide where best to allocate resources.

In 2016/17 we repeated the data survey.

The figures show that there are now 52,600 people regularly attending* FIEC churches, up from 45,700 three years ago. Some of that figure is new churches joining FIEC, but almost 4,000 is existing FIEC churches growing.

The vast majority of our churches engaged with the process which gave us a high degree of confidence in the results. As well as the increase in regular attendance, there are three other big headlines to take from the figures.

FIEC Churches are Planting Churches

Over a period of three years an average of one church per month had been launched. Based on what churches told us, we expect that trend to continue for the next five years – leading to around 100 churches over an eight year period.

But, to reach Britain for Christ, the rate of planting needs to be ramped up. FIEC is therefore working on a holistic gospel strategy that will move us closer towards seeing a thriving gospel church in every community. That’s a big goal. So we need to make sure we continue to develop good relationships with other gospel-centred church networks and mission agencies, as the task is too great for us to achieve alone.

Conversion Rate is Steady

Planting churches is a significant step towards reaching communities with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But communities comprise many individuals who each need to hear the gospel and be given the opportunity to respond, with salvation being entirely a work of God’s grace.

There were more than 900 conversions (and more than 950 baptisms) across the FIEC family of churches during a full year. No churches are reporting significant growth, but God is faithful as his church proclaims and shares the gospel and we are seeing significantly more churches growing than declining.

However, this represents just tiny fraction of people who are not yet believers and even when we take into account people becoming Christians in other church networks or denominations, the likelihood is that only about 3% of people in Great Britain are born-again believers.

This is a cause for much prayer, so please pray for our needy nation in your personal prayers and your church prayer meetings.

Church Attendance Patterns Continue to Change

Whilst we have seen another significant increase in people attending FIEC churches, patterns of attendance continue to change.

Many people who consider themselves committed do not necessarily attend as frequently as they once did. The ‘gap’ between the number who are at the main worship service on any given Sunday and the total number who are counted as regular attenders, continues to widen. Both sets of numbers are up – but the latter by far more than the former.

These changing dynamics have resulted in the number of people in formal church membership in FIEC churches remaining relatively flat.

We’re glad in the past year to have taken on Ray Evans as part of the FIEC team in the role of Church Leadership Consultant. He’s been busy helping church leaders with the challenges they face in leading a growing church.

The changes in regular attendance resulting from churches joining or leaving and the growth of churches that have remained part of FIEC throughout the two years since the previous survey are as follows:

Category Effect on regular attendance
New churches joining FIEC + 3,800
Churches leaving FIEC or closing - 800
Existing churches growing +3,900
Net effect +6,900

More could be said about out ethnic diversity, students attending FIEC churches, church revitalisation and children & youth. To read the results of the survey in more detail you can download the report.

For statistics on FIEC in relation to other churches in the UK, consult the just-published UK Church Stats 2018 from Brierley Consultancy, The Old Post Office, 1, Thorpe Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent. TN10 4PW (cost £28 including postage).

Footnotes

*For the purposes of the survey regular attendance is defined as one service every month.

Andrew Nicholson photo
Andrew Nicholson - FIEC Head of Development

Andrew worked for FIEC from 2001 to 2008 as Office & Conference Manager, then re-joined the FIEC staff team in May 2014. He is married to Meryl, who works as a hospice nurse, and they have two sons.