Membership statistics are a ‘challenge to the Church’, says General Secretary
30 June 2014
- Methodists urged to 'reclaim evangelism'
The General Secretary of the Methodist Church is encouraging
Methodists to rise to the challenge of falling membership
his report to the Methodist Conference today, the Revd Dr
Martyn Atkins highlighted the Church's
latest statistics, which indicate a significant drop in Church
membership over the last ten years.
"However the Statistics for Mission report is understood and
interpreted it does not make for easy or comfortable reading," said
Dr Atkins. "If ever we needed any encouragement to continue to
focus on those things that make for an ever better Church which is
a discipleship movement shaped for mission today, then these
statistics provide that."
In light of these figures, Dr Atkins urged Conference members to
consider how the Church might best use its resources, especially
its church buildings, saying, "There was - and remains still - a
generally held view that we have too many church properties, not
all in the best location or condition to enable us to engage as
effectively in God's mission as we desire."
The Statistics for Mission report itself is due to be debated by
the Conference on Wednesday 2 July. It shows that, although
Methodist membership is in general decline, there are some areas of
growth, particularly where churches are trying something new.
The New Song
Network in Warrington became Methodism's newest church on
Sunday 22 June, when more than 40 people became new members. What
began as a small group of people meeting in a coffee shop in 2009
has now grown into a 170-strong monthly congregation meeting for
cafe-style worship and praise.
"New Song Network is an example of what great things can happen
when we listen to God's call and are willing to do things
differently," added Dr Atkins.
"As I travel around the Church, I sense a growing desire to reclaim
evangelism as a crucial part of God's mission. The main thing is
not merely the survival of an institution, even a wonderful
institution like our beloved Church. Rather we are realising afresh
that the best thing that anyone can do, whoever they are, wherever
they live, at whatever time and in whatever circumstances is to
become a disciple of Jesus Christ. And consequently seeking and
finding apt, relevant, sensitive and effective ways of presenting
Jesus Christ to the world in which we live with so many and so
different others, is the critical task of the Church today."