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Friday, 15 May 2015

insights & detail & tips & useful links from yesterdays church research & stats conference #FaithResearch15

Yesterday I attended a Church of England (CofE) Faith in Research 2015 1 day session in Birmingham UK.  It was organised by the Research and Statistics department of the CofE. 

If I manage to notice when/whether slides used at the conference are put online I'll add links into this post later.  (18/5 & 20/5 - I've added some) If you have any corrections or additions please let me know and if you were at the sessions I wasn't at please let me have some headlines for them to add into this post.  (ta to   for a link)

What follows below is my summary of the most interesting points from the day (IMHO)  - and then below the summary there is the detail of the whole day (At the foot of this post are some links to other cofe/church related posts you may find useful)


1) our different personality/psychological types are part of us being created in God's image

2) Suffragan bishops are less thinking yet more feeling compared with Diocese bishops or clergy

3) the % of church which is middle aged or children is actually similar in urban & rural churches

4) Diocese need to really understand their data before 2017 or they'll not be prepared for when the Church Commissioners start to allocate £’s based on deprivation levels and mission initiatives (that actually work)

5) only a quarter of those seeking ordination under 30 are women

6) clergy see moving jobs as a risky business due to the opaque/covert nature of the process, its lack of secrecy & professionalism and the perceived absolute power of bishops (qualitative research says)

7) a project much like the BBC’s Listening project will help train clergy via recorded conversations between those marginalised in society 

8) In the 2015 Experiences of Ministry Survey the results are going to be “triangulated” by including a survey of some clergy spouses

9) Baptisms, weddings and funerals give us the chance to meet and talk with some 500,000 folk a week  - what greater mission opportunity is there for the church?

10) For goodness sake call it a Christening - that is what the people who attend do - and look at also providing Thanksgiving to connect without families without church traditions

11) Churches are probably particularly equipped to help with 1) loneliness, 2) family breakdown problems and 3) a lack of self esteem/hope

12) Lets be good seekers of truth and let the evidence tell us where we can go

13) the useful links in the detail of the post below are .... 
Here and here  - Mark Hart's reasonable challenges to some church growth research reported findings
Journal of Beliefs & Values - a source of church research
- festival” churches - what are they - also has surveys on ministry experiences
- BBC’s Listening project - worth a look and a listen
- how people tweet about church and Ant's previous research
post setting out the history of marriage (written from a perspective of arguing for gay marriage)
- a survey of church-based social action  
- Theos/CUF 2014 Good Neighbours report 
- Jubilee Plus 2014 Investing more for the common good national church survey 
- CUF 2012 Church growth through social action report
- HMG Food poverty report
- CUF working well with volunteers guidance - thanks to  for pointing this out
- gravetalk - the website

14) the slides for various of the presentations
- Dr Tim Ling: The 2015 Experiences of Ministry Survey
- Sarah Barter-Godfrey: Everyone Counts 2014 - Presentation slides
- Alison Peacock: What citizens say about poverty and Full report "What Citizens Say About Poverty in Greater Manchester"
 - Dr Jill Hopkinson:  Released for mission: growing the rural church The full report of Released for Mission can be accessed online:
Tom Sefton and Bethany Eckley: Church in Action: A survey of church-based social action  Presentation slides    The video from this presentation can be viewed here:   This presentation refers to: An executive summary of A Church in Action can be found here:
- Dr Liz Graveling: Young vocations: journeys towards priesthood of women and men under thirty Presentation slides
Dr Cathy Ross: Creative conversations Presentation handout
- Dr Bev Botting: a short update on occasional offices Presentation slides

15) subjects covered in the conference were: 
- Psychological types in the CofE;                     - diversity in CofE;  
- young vocations;                                             - clergy experiences of moving jobs; 
- a creative conversations project;                     - Experiences of Ministry Survey; 
- non-church people's understanding of Jesus  - what citizens say about poverty; 

- relationship between tweeted sentiments& church growth; 
- historical perspective on church role in weddings; 
- stats & research & good practice on christenings, funerals and weddings; 

- Methodist Church in Britain & growth;             - growing the rural church; 
- the Church Growth Research Program;          - survey of church-based social action

So below is a more detailed account of the sessions I attended plus basic info on those I didn't.  The detail uses #FaithResearch15 tweets and links mentioned in the various sessions - plus my own notes and pics of the handouts.  

A more detailed account of the day

IntroductionThe day commenced with a welcome and prayer from Bishop David Walker. 

I heard the Bish stress that debate is good, testing of evidence is welcome and say 

“Lets be good seekers after truth”

we then launched straight into the sessions

Psychological type and the Church of England  (a session by Dr Leslie Francis)

Leslie started with some theological reflections on the issue of psychological types

1) Empirical theology – Jesus’ approach was to say to people “go and observe, find out for yourself” as illustrated by the parables about the sower, the baker, the wedding feast and the bridesmaids

2) theology of individual differences – as exposed by the doctrine of creation (created different gender and both are in god’s image – and can extrapolate to ethnicity also), and the doctrines of the fall, redemption and sanctification (ongoing)

3) psychological differences – its intentional in creation that we have different personalities, character, psychopathology.  So - using myers briggs language - the differences between introvert/extrovert, sensing/intuitive, judging/perceiving are all God given differences and in God’s image. 

4) orientations – examples - 
– our energy can be from within or from external, 
- on data we can gather or sense, judge and/or analyse
- on attitudes we can judge or perceive
As concerns the "Anecdote to Evidence" and "Evidence to Action" research (which some of Leslie's presentation took as identifying incumbent psychological characteristics with the strongest association to church growth) ....

.... and the CofE's own statements about identifying correlations (and sometime casality) between certain factors and church growth .....

its worth reading Mark Hart's reasonable challenges - here and here  - to some of the statements made about factors associated with church growth.  I'd summarise Mark's points as being

1) the factors correlated with growth in the CofE research only account for a ¼ of the difference between growing and declining churches.

2) What are the CofE's responses to his specific criticisms that some of the correlations are reported as strong when they’re weak and others are based on inflated self reported growth rather than data returns from parishes.

3) Given these challenges isn't it wise to pause before we decide to spend significant chunks of the "£100m from the future" on factors the research says lead to church growth?

As a side point Leslie made the point that under pneumatology God can also change all things - but generally we don’t expect changes to gender


  2. Dr Leslie Francis "observe differences we must" 

Leslie then turned to some observations on personality types for congregations, clergy, OLMs, readers, bishops (in this he mainly used myers briggs terminology when describing personality types).   There was lots of data in his slides so I've only caught some of it.

1) Congregations more (70% ish) sensing and judging than general population (40% ish).   - (note Fresh Expression type churches attract more extroverts, intuition and perception)

2) Clergy predominantly intuitive (60% ish) 

3) Male clergy vs general male population - more feeling (50% ish vs 35% ish), slightly more introversion, higher on judging

4) Women clergy – not very different from male clergy on introvert and intuition, about same as female general population on feeling (70% ish)

5) Local licensed clergy (OLMs) – different from clergy but readers are closer to clergy

6) Bishops vs clergy (based on 168 returns from 258 sent out)more Extrovert & sensing, same on thinking, higher on Judging.  Suffragan bishops less thinking more feeling than Diocese bishops or clergy

If you want to research bishops it helps to have a bishop as one of the research team! Leslie Francis

Tip – many of the other articles Leslie mentioned or cited in his presentation came from the Journal of Beliefs & Values

Everyone Counts 2014 which was about some emerging findings from this work which is monitoring diversity (particularly on social backgrounds) in CofE.  

Sarah Barter-Godfrey from on Everyone Counts survey exemplary data reporting  

Sarah explained that the survey work was done via post and online/app from October 2014 to January 2015 ish and the evaluation work started November 2014. 

Each of the questions had a “I prefer not to say” answer. 

I think she said they got 34k returns


- on age and gender - more “I prefer not to says” in the younger age groups up to 45

- % middle aged or children – similar in urban & rural churches

- % younger adults and older people - there were differences between urban and rural (maybe as urban population generally is younger)

- on the “how often do you come to church” question a fair number preferred not to say (note the survey didn’t cover “festival” churches”)

- in rural churches people take on more multiple roles

- 1/3rd said they had a disability or long term health issue (but there were also high rates of “I prefer not to say”).  

- 1/5th of under 25 year olds said they had a disability or long term health issue

From the Q&A’s afterwards we learnt that:

- something on this research would go to synod this July 

- Sarah stressed how feedback on this research needed to respect the complexity of the results and the sensitivities on some of the questions

- the point was made that when in 2017 the Commissioners start to allocate £’s based on deprivation levels and mission initiatives (that actually work) this kind of data will become much more important to diocese

Presentation slides

Following a quick refreshment break we then had to choose one of two sessions happening at the same time

Ministry  (session 1a which I attended) was chaired by Tim Ling and included four 15 minute or so slots

i) Dr Liz Graveling - Young vocations: journeys towards priesthood of women and men under thirty.  

Liz was giving us a sneak preview on some work they have done

- ¼ of those seeking ordination who are under 30 are women

- when asked about their calling the under 30’s mentioned internal prompts, 

- but also the importance of childhood memories, role models they had had, seed planters, DDOs, supportive families and their practical experiences playing a role within a church

- looking at the specific gender barriers for women the factors that came up were – lack of confidence, denial or rejection of their role by others (& how this rejection created friction & hostility) and .... 

... as well as fewer opportunities, marriage & family considerations and a lack of younger married female role models

Presentation slides

ii) Dr Christine Blackie - How clergy experience preparing to move jobs in the Church of England

Christine explained about her quantitative work on clergy career mobility and factors in the clergy and the institution that affected such.  (31 interviews over 3 diocese)

She 1st set out the context mentioning common tenure and shifts in modes of authority & communication

She then presented some of her findings under the following 3 headings

Structure - Her research suggested moving jobs for clergy is seen as a risky business due to the opaque/covert nature of the process, its lack of secrecy & professionalism and the perceived absolute power of bishops (deferred to even if the process treats clergy badly)

Agency – the judgement on when to move was often initially described by clergy as being a “how long to stay in the same place” type decision (though later in the interviews other more powerful factors often became evident - e.g. a better/more challenging job).  Often clergy had confidence and were self aware about their skills but discerning how these connected and fitted with jobs was much harder

Calling & Christian Value – many felt unambiguous about their original calling but on moving jobs there was more ambiguity, cognitive dissonance (e.g. the bishop might suggest a move that didn't fit with the individuals perception of their skills) Also a fair amount of effort was required in trying to work the system - whether it be the traditional tap on the shoulder or the more recent "its up to you to put yourself forward" type approach

iii) Cathy Ross - Creative conversations.  

Cathy described a project much like the BBC’s Listening project.  

The idea was to get a deeper awareness of vocations and mission to clergy/ordinands by giving voice to those marginalised in society via recorded conversations .

These recorded conversations would be between 2 or 3 marginalised people who has shared similar experiences 
The recordings would eventually be edited down into a 5 minute version (with appropriate ethical considerations and permissions) to be used in ministerial education.

Obviously to create such conversations what was required was an attentive space, carefully set up conversations in a caring environment and links into already established and supporting relationships

They asked for suggestions from groups/individuals and eventually chose some suggested conversations which were - 2 generations of asylum seekers, older and younger generations, an unemployed person and a person in their family, those incarcerated, released and resettled

Other conversations suggested were around subjects like changes in benefits, youth violence, immigration, drugs, loneliness

Presentation handout

iv) Dr Tim Ling - The 2015 Experiences of Ministry Survey.  

Tim explained that the 2015 survey would be launched the beginning of June and was part of a 5 year project testing what supports high levels of clergy engagement and what does n’t.

The 2011 and 2013 findings on highly engaged clergy and spiritual/numerical growth saw 5 important factors - 1) role crafting behaviour (so clergy can/do change) 2) intentional outreach, 3) vocation, 4) feedback, 5) support

The 2014 report was apparently widely disseminated

Tip – website is

For the 2015 survey they are going to also “triangulate” some of the results by asking clergy spouses to get a survey (obviously slightly different from the clergy one and yes they will be be aware of clergy couples)

In the Q&A some clergy raised the issue of not receiving the survey.  In answering that issue it was explained that the central stats team send out the emails on this for the researchers using an email list they have (taken from emails ordinands originally gave as updated by diocese) 

They don't send such emails to those who had indicated they didn't want to be involved in research (I'm not clear how clergy indicated they didn't want to be involved in research but my guess is it was probably via replying to email or completing a form at sometime indicating such)

Tip – make sure your Diocese directory and Crockfords has your up to date email!

Mission  (session 1b which I didn't attend) was chaired by Rachel Jordan and included 3 slots

i) Dr Rachel Jordan - The picture outside the Church

Really interesting look at research into perceptions of Christians by . Look forward to publication in July

ii) Ant Cooper - Relationship between tweeted sentiments and church growth

My publication I mentioned which looked at how people tweet about church can be downloaded here: st

Ant's previous research, a small-scale qualitative analysis of church-related tweets.

iii) Alison Peacock - What citizens say about poverty

Following a break for lunch and a look at a poster on display we then had another choice of one of two sessions

- Alison Peacock: What citizens say about poverty presentation and Full report "What Citizens Say About Poverty in Greater Manchester"

Occasional offices (session 2a which I did attend) was chaired by Cathy Ross and included three 15 minute or so slots

i) John Haskey - The role of the church in weddings: an historical perspective. 

John previewed some insights & graphs from a book soon to be published.

His materials had “not for quotation before publication” written on them so its a bit hard to quote from his talk. 

I will say that the boingboing site has an informative post setting out the history of marriage (note the post is written from a perspective of arguing for gay marriage)

John's forthcoming work

ii) Dr Bev Botting: a short update on occasional offices.  

Bev outlined some of the general stats on baptisms, marriages and funerals and the genuine mission opportunities they presented.  
In doing so she also mentioned the 7 specific  pastoral moments for making contact with couples - a.k.a the "yellow brick road

- long sustained reduction in no’s (by CofE) with some peaks now and then
- as % of live births (so just talking infant baptism) post WW2 it was 60% and 2013 = 10%
- 2013 data says ¾’s are for 1 to 4 year olds and no’s of adult baptisms are up

- age at which these happen is increasing
- of religious marriage services most are Christian
- CofE no’s looking stable through 2000’s
- as % of religious marriage services CofE share is increasing
- note the ONS will still provide total marriage no’s and a breakdown of those no’s into same gender marriage no’s and different gender marriage no’s

- Since 2003 a small decrease in church CofE services 
- and more CofE services are in crematorium (interestingly folk often don't see these as a CofE service but more "the vicar said something at the crem")

An issue that came out from the Q&A was that its difficult to put no’s on how many UK couples go abroad (Bali, Hawaii etc. etc) to be wed (difficult as they're not required to register such back in UK) but anecdotally these maybe increasing

Presentation slides

iii) Dr Sandra Millar: Marking births and deaths 

getting ready to talk birth and death later

Sandra was valiantly trying to summarise – in 15 minutes - insights from the CofE funeral and christening projects that she normally takes a day to go through

Funerals - stats and insights from the research

More than 1 in 3 of all deaths in the UK is marked by a CoE funeral. That's 3,300 funerals per week.

- 3300 a week far out dwarfs other forms of funeral (e,g, humanists some couple of thousand a year)

- and those 3300 have a guesstimated weekly attendance at them of some 200k (say average funeral attendance of 60 people)

- It’s a growth “market” (as the baby boomers start to die) and will be for the next 20 years or so (so competition with CofE funerals is likely to increase as there is £ to be made commercially)

- the CofE is in a good place to help people have a public conversation on death and dying

 - people knowing that their preference for their funeral has been planned gives them peace.  ( the CofE “Grave Talk” tool to help people start talking about those plans will launch on Tuesday)

- clergy need to build relationships with local funeral directors so the clergy know what directors do and vice-versa and so that we honour these local partnerships

- note that the issues that come up from funeral directors via research is that there is a perception that clergy are disorganised, don't return messages, don't share mobile phone no’s, make bad mistakes, and have rules that hurt families 
(if you were running a business would you put work the way of people who act like this?). 

- the funeral directors want a relationship with clergy they know and trust – not via a call handling admin

- in meeting the family the celebrant needs to be easy to work with and customer focussed

Communication - what, where, who, balance grief and celebration, be personal not functional, tell the dead persons story – use music they liked

- give a message of hope rather than certainty “we trust XXX is with God” rather than “we know XXX is with God” 

- Make contact and make friemds – aim to talk and engage with the family post funeral

gravetalk - the website

Babies - stats and insights from the research

- 7000 thanksgiving services in 2013

- 2200 child christenings per week (up 12 yr olds)

- mostly 18 to 45 yr olds attending (ditto weddings) so the demographic under represented in church goers

- For children call it a christening not a baptism (attendees are 10 to 20 times more likely to say it’s a christening)

- Language like “during the christening your baby will be baptised” works

- Godparents really matter

- Symbols in the service – water, candle, signing cross by parents – are all really important and remembered way more than the words

- Parents are seriously motivated

- It’s a chance for parents & their family/friends to meet the whole people of God (those christened in main services are 2 times more likely to continue attending a church)

- whether you can do the christening in the main service or not make sure the parents meet church people other than the clergy

- stay in touch with the parents & children - for more than 5 years (some parents may not feel comfortable bringing younger children to church)

- note those christened may start going to another church (because its local to them as the the christening church was chosen for family rather than proximity reasons) 

One idea from the Q&A was around "Churching" or "Thanksgiving Services" and how these might be a way of honouring such traditions - particularly for families where they haven't gone to church for 3 or so generations (and so are hesitant about a christening given the vows/declarations parents and godparents have to make in such)

Funerals & Christenings & Weddings
- together there are some 5200 services a week with some 0.5m people attending - what a mission opportunity! - in fact is there any bigger one available to the church?

  1. 500,000 people attend baptisms, marriages and funerals in CoE churches each week!

- if people have a negative experience they will tell all their family and friends and others and are likely to treat is as a “that’s it for me as concerns church – and God"

Growth (session 2b - which I didn't attend) was chaired by Kevin Norris and included the following three slots

i) Dr Hamish Leese - The Methodist Church in Britain: A Growing Movement?

  1. Attendance and membership are not conclusive indicators of "growth", discipleship essential too. <Hamish Leese

The presentation refers to:

ii) Dr Jill Hopkinson - Released for mission: growing the rural church

65% of CoE estate is classified as rural and 18% of these are growing #FaithResearch1

iii) Kevin Norris - The Church Growth Research Program

Following a quick refreshment break we moved onto the next session

Church in Action: A survey of church-based social action  (led by Tom Sefton and Bethany Eckley)

Tom started off by explaining that their research looks at measuring the scale and diversity of church based action.  It builds on the Theos/CUF 2014 Good Neighbours report and the Jubilee Plus 2014 Investing more for the common good national church survey and the CUF 2012 Church growth through social action report

Their latest research was on-line and contained elements of self reporting
They had 1812 incumbents (sometimes Tom and Bethany described these as church leaders) complete an online survey and some 90% of those thought it important to engage with poverty

The survey identified the main areas that churches address as 1) loneliness, 2) family breakdown, 3) debt, 4) lack of self esteem/hope, 5) low income, 6) unhealthy lifestyle, 7) mental health.  Some might suggest that churches are particularly equipped to address 1), 2) and 4)

Bethany presented various graphics on the range of activities churches were involved in and changes since the last survey

3 years ago a quarter of churches ran a breakfast/after school/holiday club. Now it's a half

Activities in the graphics showed that more churches do schools work, food banks, parent & toddler, lunch and pre/post school drop ins and befriending

Bethany also mentioned the Food Bank + model which was suggested in an HMG Food poverty report and that church leaders identified resourcing (specifically getting enough people involved) as a problem (this may help on volunteers  CUF working well with volunteers guidance - thanks to  for pointing this out)


Bishop David Walker then closed the day with some final remarks on the day being "research led reflective practice" and "a community of inquiry" and before his final prayer I think his final statement was a call to all at the day .....

 "let evidence tell us where we can go"

... and after that there was some time for networking.  

I join Judie and others in thanking those who organised the day and look forward to the next one which David Walker said he'd be happy to chair

Related CofE/Church Posts
posts with 10 useful links  No.'s 123456789,  (not just church stuff but maybe interesting 2 u)

How do we get politics & business & civil society working for the common good?  - from April 2015
10 reasons churches don't use social media  - some possible answers and/or solutions - from April 2015
Discovering prayer  - learning from monasticism - from April 2015
10 ideas for a good lent - from a St Pauls London Cathedral event with JustinWelby - from February 2015
The CofE  House of #Bishops 52 page letter - 11 tests to use when deciding who to vote for, the 14 arguments supporting that advice - 6 points about christianity and politic - from February 2015
Church Communications - 10 points about Logos - from February 2015
CofE Discerning & nurturing paper - with Green Report attached - from January 2015
CofE Resourcing the Future - from January 2015
CofE Simplification paper - from January 2015
“In Each Generation” : A programme for reform and renewal - from January 2015

The Green Report - on CofE talent management - from December 2014
CofE typos in services - a compilation of a @OurCofE twitter hashtag - from December 2014
CofE 2013 mission stats - from November 2014
Household of faith conference - one of several posts summarising - from July 2014
CofE Strategies - one of several posts summarising - from June/July 2014


  1. Gavin Wakefield16 May 2015 at 09:57

    thanks - veryt helpful to have this summary, as I wasn't able to attend the conference. The comments and the links are appreciated

  2. wow, thankyou for putting all that together, it's so useful to have it all in one place, with all the links, tweets etc. Brilliant.