The Methodist Church of Great Britain has always been one of the most numerate of the Christian denominations in this country. It began the regular collection and publication of statistics as far back as 1766. In recent decades, while collection has continued to be annual, publication has been triennial. The current triennium covers 2008-10, with a summative report on Methodist numbers to be made to the Methodist Conference meeting in Southport in June-July 2011.
Methodists are presently gearing up for the October 2010 count, the data for which are now gathered online. By way of a warm-up to that exercise, the Research Department of the Connexional Team published on 23 September a comprehensive quantitative profile of the Methodist Church in 2009-10, prepared by Nigel Williams on the basis of the 2009 count. In addition to the main 306-page resource pack (which includes data at connexional, district and circuit levels), church-level statistics and an atlas of Methodist locations are also available in separate files. All this information can be accessed at:
A few headlines from this wealth of data may be noted here, with comparisons with the final year of the 2005-07 triennium.
There were 241,000 church members in 2009, a fall of 20% since 2007. Even without taking deaths and other losses into account, the number of confirmations in 2009 (2,565) was less than members ceasing to meet (3,435). The bulk of the membership is to be found in suburban (35%), small town (29%) or village/rural (19%) neighbourhoods, with just 16% from inner cities or council estates.
The adult average all week attendance in 2009 was 193,000, 10% less than in 2007. For teenagers and the under-13s the decreases were 12% and 34% respectively. At 228,000, total attendances had dropped by 13% in two years. Most adults continued to worship on Sundays, midweek services contributing only an extra 11% on top of Sunday congregations, whereas for children and teenagers midweek services added 67% and 53% to the Sunday totals. These data are relevant to the recent debate about whether the decline in churchgoing has ended. See http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=551
Fresh Expressions of church are often said to offset declines in the more traditional indicators of Methodist religious practice. 893 Fresh Expressions are identified in this latest report, mostly in the Café Church, Messy Church, Third Place or Cell Group categories. However, there is no reason to believe that those associated with these initiatives are excluded from the attendance figures. There is a separate presentation about Fresh Expressions in Methodism at:
The number of those linked to the Methodist Church but not members in 2009 was 315,000, 17% down on 2007. The overall community roll, including members, stood at 556,000, 14% fewer than in 2007.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Excluding local ecumenical partnerships, the Methodist Church conducted 35 of every 1,000 funerals, 12 of every 1,000 marriages and blessings, and 11 of every 1,000 baptisms and thanksgivings in 2008-09.
There were 56,000 Methodist lay office-holders in 2009, equivalent to 23% of the membership or 10% of the community roll. Methodism, therefore, really works its supporters hard! Only 1.4% of these office-holders were under 24 years of age.