UK

No children in quarter of Church of England congregations

Girl standing in pews of a church Image copyright Getty Images

There are no children in the smallest 25% of the Church of England's congregations, figures have shown.

On average, nine children attended each service across all Church of England churches in 2016 - a "sobering reminder of the long-term challenge we face", the church's ruling body said.

Usual Sunday attendance at church in 2016 was 739,000 people - 14% lower than in 2006.

But the Church says it is now reaching 1.2 million people online every month.

That is more than those who make it to the pews.

According to the annual Mission Statistics, the worshipping community of the Church of England - the people who go to church once a month or more - stood at 1.1 million in 2016.

Of these, 20% were under the age of 18 and 31% were aged 70 or over.

Attendance peaked during the Christmas period, when 2.58 million attended churches.

The statistics do not include services in prisons, hospitals, schools, military chapels and university chaplaincies.

The number of baptisms, marriages, and funerals held in Church of England churches have also declined since 2006, with the largest change seen in a 39% decline in funerals at crematoria and cemeteries.

"The figures confirm the urgency of the challenges we face, especially as we want to become a growing church for all people in all places," Mike Eastwood, director of Renewal and Reform for the Church of England said.

The decline in church attendance in the last decade is higher in children than adults.

"This challenge is likely to persist for some years ahead," William Nye, secretary general to the General Synod, said.

Digital following

In a bid to tackle the problem, the Church established a Renewal and Reform programme.

Meanwhile, the Church of England is managing to connect to a virtual audience online, a year after launching a new digital project.

Videos, podcasts, blogs and images including prayers are reaching some 1.2 million people a month through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, according to the statistics from the Church.

A further 2.5 million were reached before Easter, through the #LiveLent social media campaign.

The Church has managed to triple its number of followers on Facebook and Instagram in the last year, according to Adrian Harris, head of digital communications for the Church.

The three-year digital project is part of the Church's Renewal and Reform programme.

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