Norfolk churches face up to a changing society

PeterBrierleyBookWeb2007: As the church in Norfolk sees its members literally die off, top Christian researcher Dr Peter Brierley visited Norwich to help church leaders understand the impact of societal trends on their congregations. 
In part two of our three-part series, Peter says Christians need to look at the effects of seven important trends in British society in the face of a 50% decline in Norfolk church attendance over the last 25 years.
Keith Morris reports.
1 We are living longer

In 1991, there were only around 1000 centenarians in the UK. By 2030 this will have increased to 70,000. A quarter of the population are now grandparents and some five million of them (37%) spend three days a week caring for their grandchildren. Could your church hold a Grandparents Day for example?

2 Married couples are decreasing

Lone parenthood is rapidly increasing in the UK. Live births outside marriage tripled between 1992 and 2002 and by 2012 half of births could be outside marriage.

How can churches adapt to help changing families, by running after school clubs or being attractive to lone parents and their children maybe, said Peter.

3 Family changes include church children

Church families are not immune to changes in society. Today, one third of children are brought up in a home without one or both of their natural parents.

4 Huge pressures on children

Pressures on young people include the media, bullying, morality, being successful, parents, peers and religion. There are 22,000 calls a year to Childline on bullying alone. In 2005, 32% of 17-year old boys and 42% of girls had had sexual intercourse. One of the keys to reaching young people is to work with groups of friends, make church fun, provide food and appoint a children’s worker if possible, suggested Peter. 

ChurchFutureCover5 People are moving

A substantial proportion of people move home in any one year, including 7% of churchgoers and some 65,000 churchgoers change church every year.

This raises questions about how to welcome and help people moving into your area and offer them a friendly church to attend.

6 Growth of other religions
Only two religions are growing across the world: Muslims and Christian evangelicals.

In the 2001 national Census, 72% said they were Christian with 7% saying they went to church once a month, 8% once a year, 25% have stopped going, 24% have never been. Some 8% are other religions and 28% are not religious or unknown.

In Norwich over 25% of people said they had no religion, one of the highest figures in the whole country, compared to 14.6% nationally.

7 Deaths in the UK

600,000 people die in the UK each year and 75% of funerals are Christian. In the average congregation four out of every 100 people will die each year.

So how can the church best use the opportunities provided by bereavement and help people prepare for death, asked Peter.

Peter is director of Christian Research and the man behind the definitive English Church Census and Religious Trends reports. He was speaking at an event organized by Transforming Norwich, hosted by Sheriff of Norwich John Drake and held at the Salvation Army Citadel in the city centre

Next week in the third and final part of the series, we look to the rich Christian heritage in Norwich and look at two ways in which the church can look at addressing the decline of the past 25 years.

Published: 03/05/2007