On twitter last night I saw a tweet from @edthornton, a writer for the Church Times who flagged up this article by Nelson Jones for the New Statesman:
In it Jones says that the church should ‘stop trying to be trendy and embrace its older generation’. Which came out of a Synod report that the average age of the churches congregation is 61. Not a good sign… He makes several points, including about children within the church but it this that really got me:
Far be it from me to make suggestions to the C of E, but perhaps they should stop trying to attract the youth market – a declining demographic in any case – and instead specialise in serving the ever-expanding numbers of older people. Church has much to offer senior citizens – not just religious consolation but socialisation with like-minded folk, participation in parish committees and voluntary work, the opportunity to develop hobbies such as flower-arranging and singing, even a discreet dating service for the recently widowed.
I really hope that this was written with sarcasm and with tongue firmly in cheek. Otherwise it shows a ridiculous disreagrd for the future of the church and is incredible short-sighted and narrow minded.
I am not sure that the ’61’ statistic is all that helpful but it is true that many areas of the church are or will be facing a dire shortage in the coming years. Whilst in many churches the over 61s are the largest part of the congregation and should be catered for accordingly, can we please start looking forward… someone? anyone? The church is here primarily to help people encounter Jesus: in worship, in prayer, in teaching. How can we be failing so miserably? Another stat said this:
Not only have congregations halved over the past forty years, the number of children attending regular worship has declined by 80 per cent.
Is the CofE flogging a dead horse? Is the end really in sight or can it be revamped for today and for the future? I want to see a CofE that is respected and valued within all of society not just those that believe. I want a CofE that meets peoples needs, whatever their age, that really helps them to encounter the unfailing love of our amazing God. I want to see a CofE that is not ridiculed by the press, but held up as a paragon of virtue…
Am I in cloud-cuckoo land?