So here we are again taking a longer view at the CofE stat's (as shown below); this time we're going to have a bit of a think about the issue of children/young people:
The reality is that we have haemorrhaged a quarter of the children and young people over the past ten years and this is something that those around me are cheering (and we do need to cheer about it) over the 2011 (year-on-year) rise of 1.2% that the 216,900 (average weekly attendance) represents.
Couple this with the 139,751 baptisms (another rise in the year-on-year of 4.3%) and the massive rise (again year-on-year of 11.9%, that's 6,582 in 2011) in the area of blessings, and you can see reasons indeed to be cheerful. But this is something we must not only celebrate but also build upon and consolidate as a matter of importance.
The problem is that where I am some regard us as being 'lucky' because we have young people and children because they are 'unlucky' and have none! I often visit churches where the mantra is, 'We are committed, engaged, enthusiastic and becoming old and we have some/few/no* children/young people.' (*delete as applicable)
One of my first questions relates to the area of baptisms, for these are often a place in the church's life where families with young children are to be found. The dialogue then goes a little like this:
'We do baptisms but we can't get the people to do any real prep' and they don't come back afterwards. In fact we used to give the baptism certificate a week or two after the baptism but they never came back and so we just give it to them on the day and never see them again!'
Another person complained that, 'We can't compete with sport on a Sunday and other things that draw the children away. Neither can we make ourselves relevant with regard to the young families around us!'
And you know what? I think we can - and are in many places :-)