Christmas attendance at Church of England services rose again in 2017

14th November 2018

Attendance at Christmas services in the Church of England is at its highest level for more than a decade, according to new figures published today.

The latest annual Statistics for Mission report shows that while traditional Sunday attendance edged lower in 2017, in line with long-term trends, the numbers attending Christmas services increased by 3.4 per cent to 2.68 million.

It was the fourth successive rise in Christmas congregations since 2013 and the highest figure since 2006.  Combined with figures for special services in churches during Advent, including carol services, there were nearly eight million attendances over the festive season.

Meanwhile separate figures also published today show that the Church of England more than doubled its monthly reach on social media - from 1.2 million in 2017 to 2.44 million this year.

The Church of England’s Advent and Christmas campaign in 2017 was four times bigger than the previous year, with reach rising from 1.5 million to 6.8 million.

And the Church’s Royal Wedding prayer and videos for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were seen more than five million times on social media.

The figures for 2017 show that average Sunday attendance (measured during October 2017) stood at 756,000, down on the previous year in line with long-term trends. Average weekly attendance over October 2017 stood at 895,000.

But the ‘Worshipping Community’ – a measure of those people who regularly attend church rose slightly in 2017 to 1.14 million people, of whom 20 per cent were aged under 18 years old.

Figures in the Diocese of Sheffield reflect the general national trend: Christmas numbers have risen to their highest level since 2007 and numbers of young people (under 16) attending Churches on Sundays and during the week have also shown an increase.  Whilst most other figures have shown some decline, week by week, “Usual Sunday Attendance" has held steady.

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox said: "Last weekend, on the centenary of the Armistice, people from communities across South Yorkshire and the East Riding gathered in our churches and around war memorials in unprecedented numbers as we called to mind in sorrow and thanksgiving  the many thousands whose sacrifice preserved the freedom we enjoy.  Churches across the Diocese were filled to standing room only, as people pledged themselves afresh to the service of God, working for a world of justice and peace. This special anniversary event (like the usual massive church attendances at Christmas and Easter) shows the importance of the hope people continue to find in the good news that the kingdom of God is coming.

When I arrived in the Diocese of Sheffield 18 months ago, the challenge we face (alongside most other Dioceses in the Church of England) in relation to Sunday church attendance was all too clear.  It is a challenge our Diocese had already begun to address through its Centenary Project, which employs people to work with our churches as they reach out with the love of Jesus Christ to children and young people in particular.  These figures indicate that this strategy is beginning to  bear fruit.  I pray that by the grace of God this trend will continue in the coming years."

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