Counting the Sheep

One of my jobs this week is to do the annual statistical return for St Mary’s. Lots of columns of figures have to be totted up – at the end of it all, a book it published for General Synod which tells us how many baptisms have been performed in each church, how many communions have been celebrated and so on. The attendance figure that is reported is the number of people who have been in church on the last Sunday before Advent.

In some ways, this is always a misleading figure as some clergy massage the numbers by arranging baptisms or orchestral masses or what have you on the day. [I didn’t do anything this year, gov, honest.]

The figures only tell part of the story though. This weekend, the building that I work in will have hosted events in which 1200 – 1500 people have passed through the doors. These have included the AIDS day service, a large twelve-step group, a service for those bereaved by the loss of a child and a big arts event. None of these get counted in the figures, which is a shame. Instead when it comes to the attendance figure all I get to report is that 181 people came to services last Sunday. It is a figure with large spiritual holes in it.


  1. And one dog

  2. Kimbery says

    Take heart. If you had three churches to look after, one of them would not have met (communicants – 0), one would have had reserved sacrament (communicants 17, down from 27 the week previous), and one would have had key people missing (communicants 19). I am sorely tempted to list ‘nearest celebration’ rather than comply to ‘last Sunday before advent’. But big church or small, you’re right: one Sunday’s figures are far from informative.

    PS — If you would like to send any of your 188 communicants, or indeed, your 1200 visitors to Dunoon next weekend (Sunday the 10th) we have an Advent Carol service at 3pm. For tiny churches, we are exceedingly lucky to have 7 talented musicians, which, with the bishop makes for an impressive octet. There’s plenty of time to get to Dunoon and be back in Glasgow in time for Evensong.

    Shameless use of your blog, isn’t it??

  3. GadgetVicar says

    An added issue (at least for us), is that the number of communicants per Sunday is not an accurate figure for the spiritual life of the congregation. We have a communion service every Sunday, but not always as the ‘main’ service. So, on the second Sunday we have Morning Prayer as the ‘main’ am service, and on the fourth, an all-age service. The figures get somewhat skewed, when one Sunday communicants can number 150-200, and the following Sunday, they are down to 30-30.

    Maybe a more accurate figure would be simply to focus on an total average Sunday attendance figure, which would help even out extraordinary attendances (baptisms, concerts, etc).

    I’m really not sure what tallying the figures achieve anyway, other than complete self-satisfaction or total discouragement!

  4. OK, I was the one who had the Baptism! I confess. I promise it was their choice of date though.

  5. Kimberly omitted to mention her mulled wine as a Dunoon attraction. Just as well you didn’t send a horde to our glorious service – there wouldn’t have been enough for the rest of us!

Speak Your Mind