Membership statistics are a ‘challenge to the Church’, says General Secretary

  • Methodists urged to 'reclaim evangelism'

The General Secretary of the Methodist Church is encouragingMethodists to rise to the challenge of falling membershipfigures.

Presenting his report to the Methodist Conference today, the Revd DrMartyn Atkins highlighted the Church's latest statistics, which indicate a significant drop in Churchmembership over the last ten years.

"However the Statistics for Mission report is understood andinterpreted it does not make for easy or comfortable reading," saidDr Atkins. "If ever we needed any encouragement to continue tofocus on those things that make for an ever better Church which isa discipleship movement shaped for mission today, then thesestatistics provide that."

In light of these figures, Dr Atkins urged Conference members toconsider how the Church might best use its resources, especiallyits church buildings, saying, "There was - and remains still - agenerally held view that we have too many church properties, notall in the best location or condition to enable us to engage aseffectively in God's mission as we desire."

The Statistics for Mission report itself is due to be debated bythe Conference on Wednesday 2 July. It shows that, althoughMethodist membership is in general decline, there are some areas ofgrowth, particularly where churches are trying something new.

The New SongNetwork in Warrington became Methodism's newest church onSunday 22 June, when more than 40 people became new members. Whatbegan as a small group of people meeting in a coffee shop in 2009has now grown into a 170-strong monthly congregation meeting forcafe-style worship and praise.

"New Song Network is an example of what great things can happenwhen we listen to God's call and are willing to do thingsdifferently," added Dr Atkins.

"As I travel around the Church, I sense a growing desire to reclaimevangelism as a crucial part of God's mission. The main thing isnot merely the survival of an institution, even a wonderfulinstitution like our beloved Church. Rather we are realising afreshthat the best thing that anyone can do, whoever they are, whereverthey live, at whatever time and in whatever circumstances is tobecome a disciple of Jesus Christ. And consequently seeking andfinding apt, relevant, sensitive and effective ways of presentingJesus Christ to the world in which we live with so many and sodifferent others, is the critical task of the Church today."