The majority of Christians in the United Kingdom think attendance in their own churches will increase over the next 20 years. They’re less optimistic about the U.K. church in general, although almost half still expect to see attendance grow in that period.
Such are the findings of a survey conducted exclusively for The Baptist Times by leading polling organization ComRes.
The online questionnaire of 512 Christians found that 65 percent believe their own churches will see either a “dramatic” (16 percent) or “somewhat” increase (49 percent) in attendance.
That figure dropped to 48 percent when asked about the U.K. church in general.
Among Baptists surveyed, 15 percent think there will be a “dramatic” increase in their individual churches. Fifty-two percent indicated that church attendance will increase “somewhat,” with 16 percent thinking it will stay the same.
Just 12 percent said attendance will decrease “somewhat,” while only 1 percent of Baptists surveyed believe there will be a “dramatic” decrease in attendance at their churches.
Methodists (79 percent) and Anglicans (67 percent) are also confident of increases in their individual churches, slightly higher than Roman Catholics (58 percent).
The most confident grouping belongs to those who attend charismatic churches, such as Vineyard congregations. Ninety percent think attendance will increase in their own churches, 41 percent dramatically.
The least confident group are those identifying themselves as Pentecostal, with 31 percent believing there will be an increase, and 46 percent predicting a decrease in membership at the church.
With a sometimes hostile or negative portrayal of Christianity in the mainstream media, those surveyed are slightly less optimistic about the wider picture, although nearly half of all churchgoers expect growth over the next 20 years.
A quarter believes overall church attendance will decrease “somewhat,” compared with a figure of 13 percent for individual churches.
Seven percent indicated a “dramatic” decrease (3 percent for individual churches), while 15 percent replied “about the same” (17 percent for individual churches).
There is no major difference by denomination and churchmanship except for those attending charismatic churches.
Baptists are less confident about the church in the U.K. generally than other denominations, with 43 percent believing there will be an increase, compared with 52 percent for Anglicans and 51 percent for Methodists. Again charismatics are the most optimistic, with 71 percent predicting an overall increase in church attendance in the U.K.
Commenting on the findings, Benita Hewitt, director of Christian research, told The Baptist Times, “This is really interesting. Around two in three churchgoers believe that their church will increase in size over the next 20 years.
“It’s great to see so much optimism from churchgoers about the future of their church; believing a church can and will grow is an important step towards making it happen.
“Let’s hope the optimism is matched by enthusiastic action towards growth.”
The Rev. Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, added, “I found the results of the survey absolutely fascinating.
“It’s encouraging to discover that 83 percent of Baptists consider that church attendance is likely to stay the same or grow in the next 20 years.
“I’m really delighted that Baptists haven’t swallowed the media’s continual emphasis on the decline in churchgoing.
“Interestingly, Baptists are far more convinced by the health of Baptist churches than churches generally. Whereas 67 percent of Baptists expect to see their own church grow, only 43 percent expected to see growth in U.K. churches generally.”
He added, “I love surveys. They don’t tell you the whole truth but they tell you something, and I found this a very enlightening insight into contemporary church thinking.”
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.