The Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone

On current trends, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2040

(The Economist 29/04/17)   ………….. and English Methodism will expire around 2035.


Growth …. of what?

growthrogersA membership denomination like Methodism has a fairly clear idea about its headcount.  CoE covers the whole parish as a default option or “church of last resort” where membership is assumed.  In that omnibus situation the question of who belongs, and how, is worth exploring.

“In Believing without Belonging, Davie (1994) had propounded the theory that Christian faith in Britain since 1945 was characterised by a persistence in belief but a collapse in belonging to the organised church. [However it was not clear what “belonging meant in a CoE parish context. Closer study showed….]
…….ways in which individuals belong with the church. Four categories were described.

  • “Activity” belonging – participation in some regular occurrences which took place sufficiently
    often to engender an expectation that attendance on each occasion was part of a larger commitment;
  • “Event” belonging was defined as a pattern of attendance at “one off” occasions
  • “People” belonging was defined as mediated through relationships (with vicar, or others)
  • “Place” belonging was defined as a person’s connections eg to the church  building” PhD thesis: The Inclusivity of Rural Anglicanism: Theoretical and empirical considerations
    David Stuart Walker M.A. Dip. Theol.   Warwick 2014.

Walker (Bishop of Manchster) cites related publications and the whole will likely feature51mxzehjsyl-_sx326_bo1204203200_ in his Feb 2017 book “God’s Belongers: How People Engage with God Today and How the Church Can Help

He does consider the income implications of belonging versus membership, but without really recognising the normal survival imperative of income > cost.   Methodism also does not depend solely on pew income. I can’t see Coca Cola being as happy with non-paying “customers” – they might value the segmentation but with an eye to shifting each segment towards being payers

One outcome of this segmented belongers approach would be a National Trust way of thinking about visitors, members, volunteers and “Friends of…”, with the estate regarded as a heritage preservation challenge (each location with a shop and cafe as standard!)

Is Walker’s approach valid, or just an intellectual ordinands’ distraction from the core business of growing disciples?


System map ~ church growth


It is over 100 years since English Methodism last saw overall numeric growth. Today the mindset is a mix of “we’re a church – numbers aren’t important” and “we are in terminal decline – sit back and enjoy the party”. Denial and defeatist?

What sort of system or organisation might lead to growth?

GrowthSystemThis model centres on an attract-engage-retain process within a local church, connecting to its local population.  Individuals choose to stay or leave depending on their own utility analysis – is membership generating value in excess of cost? Ideally the process does bring individuals to the point where “all sins are forgiven”, a value outcome that exceeds any cost. That outcome is not really in the gift of the congregation however.

The model could be developed in detail, especially around the role of the “franchise” components and the value they add relative to the costs they add.

In use, the key questions are about (1) how to attract and (2) how to create meaningful engagement.  In many cases this attract/engage proposition simply does not work well enough, and is rarely operated intentionally and with forethought.





A useful overview of digital development in the religion arena was in The Guardian 21 Dec 2016

One point that was implicit was around the ongoing struggle to align the usual free-wheeling online culture to the more- meticulous theological frameworks.

Bottom line for one commentator – a virtual church can’t deliver a real casserole…………yet






An afterthought from the previous post. If we were to construct a worship and church framework based on modern culture rather than Georgian music hall, what would it look like? Does this advert (image) provide a clue?



The cultural elements would be(?):

cafe/pub format

karaoke/pop music

stand -up

evening class


pop-up (if only to test a local ‘market’)

internet/social media

A local centre would have its own (franchised and/or democratically-run) format for its members but would be part of a wider local network sponsoring large concert-type worship events. The local centres would actively include traditional (existing) churches who in some (many?) cases might be hosting or supporting new forms of church.

The central events and related publicity would be aimed in part at increased non-member awareness.

Where next?

blog-music-picA recent blog has reflected at length (as the end of a working ministry approaches) on the future of English Methodism. The writer looks particularly at how music informs that discussion – Methodism was born in song, but not songs that fit with modern (youth) tastes. This is seen as emblematic of the wider problem facing Methdodism – how to maintain a tradition for 200000 members yet offer something that is more appealing to non-members.

Wesley innovated with hymns and outdoor and indoor preaching. In the 1800’s this was extended to include many of the values and attributes needed for managing the urban industrial and democratic society. Christianity provided the backbone for a very relevant social evolution. Many of those values crumbled in the teeth of WW1 enemy machine guns, and the church has declined.

Church has suffered as belief has declined explicitly and many others are in the “believing not belonging” group.

The blog suggests that even today Methodism fails because it harks back to some golden era that has no immediate relevance. Recently I heard again the ‘lump of coal’ analogy (it ceases to glow if not in the fire with others) and the idea ‘if you thirst, go to the well’. Neither works well today in an era when heat and water are network piped services.

Wesley harnessed new ideas and needs, creating a form of teetotal music hall, democratically run and with a strong social action base.

Today is there an equivalent framework? What traditional components have a future, and what modern components are added to create a modern core and a related social action platform?






Weird Church

weirdSomething new in town, it seems. Not yet studied in depth but there seems to be a focus on mini-churches. Also apparently it draws on “spiral dynamics” (1974), something which seems to be  akin to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943).

One point that did surface on a speed-read was that society is moving from valuing individuals based on their work/earnings and into valuing based on individuals’ contribution to leisure. This would align with a society where older/retired  people are more evident. Does this point towards church linking with concepts like U3A or Time Dollars, supporting a market in leisure time?