Over the course of ten years, the total membership of Methodists in the UK has diminished by over 100,000.
This isn’t a scare tactic.
Nor is this number the result of gross manipulation of statistics.
Taken from the Statistics for Mission report, produced by Alan Piggot (Research Officer for the Methodist Church), this number was not plucked from thin air.
Since 2002, the Methodist Church has been actively collecting data for their Statistics for Mission, with the aim of assessing the number of people actively involved in the UK’s Methodist community.
A single ‘pro forma’, the standard form that is required to be filled in by each Church, requires 108 unique pieces of information to be filled in.
With nearly around 4,600 local churches spread across the length and breadth of England, the total data collated stacks up to a staggering 188,905 separate records. This is the amount of data that is collected and analysed by the Church every year. As a result, there are now over 20 millions individual records at researchers disposal to.
Of course, statistics can often be misleading.
Indeed return rates from churches were initially low at around 85%. This would have significantly skewed results and given us Methodists some hope that there were perhaps more of us, simply choosing to go uncounted. However, these rates have since improved, with a 99% return rate recorded in 2013.
The results are now conclusive. Taken on average, the Methodist Church has been losing around 9,000 members a year, since records began in 2002. Let us not forget the words that John Wesley wrote in 1986:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist. However, I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of a religion without the power.”
The only question now is, what are we going to do about it?
We need to be devising new ways to engage people from all backgrounds to visit their local Methodist Church and become part of the community. For the last month, we have been conducting meetings and discussion groups, to brain storm ideas on how best to do this. Here are some of the few ideas we’ve come up with so far:
Engage Educational Establishments
Luke 11:9 says: “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Mimicking companies in America, who are always looking for news ways to market to college students, we need to be getting amongst school and college kids, raising awareness of Methodism. Getting involved in Open Days and offering counselling are just a few examples of what we could be doing.
Open Up Church Spaces
Acts 5:14 says: “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…”
Earlier this year it was proven that communal experiences, such as Pokemon Go, could successfully lure young people into church spaces. By paying closer attention to current recreational trends, the Church could open up safe spaces for young people to enjoy at their own leisure.
Social Media Experts
Mark 16:15 says: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'”
Part of our responsibility as Methodists is to spread the word of the Lord, through any means necessary. Standing out on the pavements, attempting to wrangle unwitting members of the public, is no longer a viable option. Social Media is the most efficient method of outreach in the 21st century and it’s one that we need to be making better use of.