Manna mailing: Bishop's letter

30th April 2024

There’s a fascinating exercise I’ve often undertaken with roomfuls of church members. I’ve asked them the question ‘To what age do you trace back the beginnings of your Christian faith?’ The results are almost always the same. About 40% of us think that our Christian journey started at some point before the age of four. Another 20% of us trace the beginnings of our faith back to when we were less than eleven. A further 20% say before we were eighteen. While only 20% of us report having embarked on the journey of faith as adults.

The findings I’ve described should give us all pause for thought. For most people, the start of our Christian journey (even if we’ve dropped out for a while in adolescence and early adulthood) starts in childhood.

So if we want to grow our churches and transform our communities this suggests that it’s into the faith development of children and young people that we should be putting our energies, priority and resources.

Our data suggests that more than half our churches have no young person worshipping with them on a Sunday morning. I realise, of course, how hard it is for churches to compete with the demands of football, seeing the extended family, doing any of the many things that are otherwise crowded out of busy family lives. Yet experience shows that when we offer worship at other times and in formats that are attractive to children, young people and families they do come.

This year I’m challenging all our benefices to grow their average weekly attendance by one child (net). If we could sustain such an achievement over a number of years the impact would transform our churches, our lives and our experience. The support services of our diocese offer extensive assistance to enable local churches to think what could work with the resources you have, the passions and skills you possess and the reality of the situation where you are. Do ask for their help.

Are you willing to take up the challenge I’ve offered?

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