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A very thorough survey in Great Britain this year (weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults) has come up with a conclusion that may surprise many:

Two-thirds of Christians become Christians between the ages of 0 and 4 years old.

So what is the church’s focus on this pre-school age? Are we facilitating and enabling those aged 0-4 to become Christians (and not out of fear that the club is shrinking and who will maintain the club houses? But because we genuinely believe that this is Good News).

In my diocese, we (only) have two (Anglican) pre-schools. Could we, should we, have more? Why don’t we have more?

How much are we focusing on young families? Families of preschoolers? How comfortable do/would families with 0-4-year olds feel in your communities? At your services?

In the comments, you could put good resources that you are aware of. What books do you suggest? Where are the websites for activities for this age group? For young families?

I’m especially interested – where are the resources for such young families to celebrate faith naturally in their home life?

What is your community’s baptism preparation like? And what is the “follow up”, the ongoing life that is your community’s assumption after baptism?

As a parish priest, I would try and visit on the anniversary of the baptism – or, at least (if I couldn’t), send them a card (usually including some home-life, faith-celebrating suggestions). And if they had moved out of the parish, I would send them a card to their new address (if I knew it – checking carefully, first, that all was fine with the child I had baptised and with the family. I have heard some absolutely dreadful stories of church sending anniversary cards and invitation-to-Sunday-School-at-age-five to a family when the child has actually died – sometimes years before).

As well as having godparents, I introduced a “Parish Baptism Sponsor” who presented the candle in the service. Such a sponsor kept up the relationship with the family. The family kept the candle, and I encouraged them to light it on significant days: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Birthday, the Baptism anniversary,… and to bring the candle to church on the Sunday close to the anniversary when we would light it in the Eucharist with a song and a prayer.

Add into that conversation our baptism statistics:

In 25 years, baptisms had dropped from 937 to 234 (down 75% – or 81% relative to population). In the last three years they have dropped further to 162, a further drop of 31% in three years.

What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Evangelism”

  1. I am writing as a lay person living in a small town with a small Anglican congregation. On arrival in the town 4 years ago we were dismayed to find that Children were absent at the services. Youngest of the congregation was mid fifties. We felt that that we needed to do change this and 2 &half years ago after much discussion and research and with support from local clergy we started Messy Church. We have an Anglican early childhood centre that liaise and help and have now built a loyal faith community that itself is spreading the love of Jesus Christ. We hope that over the next 12 months we will have out first BPtisms and Eucharist. As for resources Messy Church resources is run by the BRF. UK and Anglican Church .nz. We have Diocesan FB page and our faith community FB which is updated almost daily. I understand your comments are ment as a challenge but there is a new positivity out there. I will add that we are in our seventies but have a band of helpers who though senioirs are enthusiastic about Messy Church and our outreach into the community

    1. Thanks, Chris. Yes, I think you have the spirit of this post – a challenge AND wanting to hear of examples like yours with a new positivity. The daily-updated facebook page is also encouraging. Blessings.

  2. We don’t have messy church but have a very successful ‘Cafe Church’ once a month in the Parish Centre, replacing the usual Family Eucharist. Some of the congregation did not like this but it appeals to young families which are the ones we need to encourage. Some pre baptism families come because the usual formal service is not (yet ) for them. It is now attended by a very mixed age group led by the lay people. This happened because our minister has more than one church…..becoming more usual. I go to a very traditional church in Wigan but times are changing and we need to look forward and go out to o the people. Margaret

  3. There are so many challenges in your post thanks! I think only part of the answer is to consider what we do for children. We also need to be thinking about what we need to change in our services or the way we do church to make it something that their parents wish to attend. How can we grow their spirituality and encourage them to grow close to God. That may mean changing what our services look like and sound like. In some ways Messy Church is a bit of a cop out, because it means existing traditional congregations don’t have to change and the families stay off to one side in their separate congregation – is that what a family looks like?

    1. Christina – I’m totally with you. If you poke around my writing you’ll find my concerns about siloing Christianity into different tastes. Surely the vision of Jesus is ALL around the one table? Blessings.

  4. It is important to bring the kids to the alter, and make them altar servers. That will inculcate the seed of the faith in them, much more than Sunday school and colouring books.

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