26/11/2015

We just have to keep our foot on the growth pedal

Diocesan Secretary Mike Eastwood set out the current position of our statistics for mission in the diocese at Synod. Here is a summary of his report.

In his address to Synod, Diocesan Secretary Mike Eastwood spoke about the 2014 figures in this, the fifth presentation of statistics for mission in the diocese.

His basic proposition was that if we continue to have the kind of decision-making freedom into the future that we have now then we have – at worst – got to maintain the giving base that we have. We have to retain the ability to pay for our leaders in mission (local clergy, local missional leaders etc) and to be able to invest in new forms of missional activity.

Growing the giving base is a matter of discipleship, a matter of formation. It is about people coming to faith and maturing in their faith; it is about disciples making disciples; it is about current and future leaders being intentional; it is about being church.

Parish Share

The best summary of the current Parish Share position is that we’re just about hanging in there. We remain hopeful that our collection rate will remain strong and that we will learn helpful lessons as Wigan Deanery seeks to pilot an alternative Parish Share system.

Encouragingly, Parish Share is taking up slightly less of our regular giving. That is really significant for financial freedom of choice; the more the proportion taken up by Parish Share the less financial freedom the local church has.

Total planned giving

Planned giving, the financial lifeblood of the church, is just about holding steady. Although we have lost significantly more committed givers than we have gained, each remaining giver is giving a little more. The 2 balance each other out. The average giver now gives £9.50 a week, an increase of 50p per person per week.

We remain heavily dependent on the committed giving of the major givers. 80% of the money continues to be given by 20% of the people. Most regular church givers give c. £5.00 a week or less.  We need to flatten out this curve by the middle and lower level givers giving more.

Bishop Richard challenged us last year to think about the giving challenge differently – to think in terms of a cup of coffee or a pint of beer a week – and this challenge absolutely plays into how we might address this low level of ‘committed’ giving. If every regular giver gave £2.50 a week extra we would have well over £2 million a year extra. This would increase our regular giving by one third. £2.50 a week is within reach for just about everyone – and it’s nearly £2 million extra a year.

Parish Giving Scheme

The Parish Giving Scheme is highly commended. The majority of our givers automatically increase their giving by inflation. We have parishes involved in the scheme from the most deprived to the least deprived. It’s an excellent scheme. View the Parish Giving Scheme information pages here for more details.

Therefore, the giving picture in our diocese can be very broadly summarised as lots of sacrifice and lots of scope.

Additional financial points

1. Levels of fee income have risen significantly in recent years 2 years.
2. Legacies – 2014 was a bumper year for legacies - £1.8 million. Legacies remain the single    
    greatest untapped income opportunities for parishes.
3. Reserves – total parish reserves remain healthy. There is scope for some parishes to invest in
    mission development activities.

Attendance

We have grown as a diocese in recent years. This is after 30 years of pretty persistent decline. It’s been a remarkable and significant turnaround.

Last year we just about held onto that growth, staying more or less flat.  However, we are starting to fall back again in terms of attendance at services. This mirrors the fall back in regular givers. Our core membership is falling back.

Fundamentally we just have to keep our foot on the growth pedal. Otherwise we really are looking at accelerating decline, which none of us want.

One very sobering statistic from the national church; they estimate that 1.9% of the population attend Church of England churches regularly. But 47% of our membership is aged over 65. And in the age group 18 – 24 just 0.6% of the population attend church. That’s just 3 people in 500 of that age group. The challenge to grow younger is still pretty stark.

In conclusion there’s enough here to be encouraged about but we shouldn’t and we don’t duck the realities. Indeed one of the real strengths of this diocese is that we face up to reality honestly and early. We have to be determined and intentional about growing our giving base, with all the vocational, discipleship and evangelistic implications that this brings.