Dramatic drop in church attendance shown in Scotland

(Photo: Church of Scotland)Rev. Sarah Brown and her Church of Scotland congregation hold a cutting the ribbon ceremony to celebrate the opening of Castlemilk's new church on Sept. 4, 2016.

The number of people who regularly attend church services in Scotland has fallen by more than half over the last 30 years, according to a new survey which finds that there are only 390,000 regular churchgoers there.

The statistics were revealed in the results of 2016 Scottish Church Census, which was recently published by Brierley Consultancy which found that 42 percent of churchgoers were aged over 65.

Lead researcher Dr. Peter Brierley said the figures indicated a crisis in Christianity across Scotland, but the biggest church, the Church of Scotland sees some "green shoots of growth" in attendance.

He noted, "We are living in the 21st century and one of the features of the 21st century is that people's allegiance to particular faiths is no longer as strong as it used to be."

In 1984 there were 854,000 churchgoers in Scotland of 17.4 percent of its population which was then closer to 5 million about 300,000 less than now.

The research also revealed that 42 percent of churchgoers were aged over 65 and 7.2 percent of the population are regular attendees of Christian services.

One leading cleric said the findings presented a "crisis and an opportunity" for Christians in Scotland.

The statistics were revealed in the results of 2016 Scottish Church Census, which was recently published by Brierley Consultancy.

The census found that a third (35 percent) of all churchgoers (counting congregational numbers against churches) were Evangelical, up from 26 percent in 1994, while another third (32 percent) were Catholic.

Catholics and Charismatic Evangelicals recorded the youngest followers.

The Church Census held in May 2016 was the fourth Census which has been undertaken of Scottish Church attendance, the first being held in 1984, thus giving an overall time frame of 32 years.

Each has encompassed a variety of factors, but has especially focused on congregational numbers attending a place of Christian worship on a Sunday.

Other key findings include:

● 7.2% of Scotland's population regularly attend church, down from 17% in 1984.

● The number of congregations dropped from 4,100 in 1984 to 3,700 in 2016.

● 40 percent of churchgoers are male.

● Four-fifths of church leaders (79 percent) are male, with an average age of 57.

● 43 percent of leaders are responsible for more than one church.

Attendance among the Pentecostals has doubled since 2002 and now stands at 19,000, making up 5 percent of all churchgoers in Scotland.

The census also revealed a growth in new churches - 12,000 people regularly attend around 300 new churches started since 2002.

The Church of Scotland, the nation's biggest church found some positive signs from the new data.


It said that although overall church attendance figures show a continued decline, the rate of such decline has slowed significantly, with some denominations and geographical regions seeing encouraging signs of growth.

This is partly due to a significant influx of immigrants coming to Scotland and the growth of Pentecostal churches

Aberdeenshire in the north of Scotland, for example, has seen the number of its churches increase from 196 in 2002 to 228 in 2016, due to an increase of Polish labourers working in the oil industry and north east of Scotland.

More people (75, 350 or 1.4 percent of the population) are also now attending midweek worship.

Rev. Colin Sinclair, chair of the Scottish Church Census Steering Committee and Moderator of the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Edinburgh, said, "Whilst there are a number of challenges facing Christian churches in Scotland, including a broadly aging demographic and ministering in an increasingly individualised culture; these are similar challenges facing society at large both in Scotland and across Western Europe."

He said that Scotland is seeing less attendance at various mass cultural activities.

(PHOTO: ECUMENICAL NEWS / JAEMO KIM)Kenneth Ross, Council Secretary at the Church of Scotland World Mission council, speaks at a discussion on new ecumenical landscapes at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea on November 4, 2013.

For example only around 4 percent of people (213,108) visit the cinema at least once a week – a great deal less than the 390,000 Christians regularly attending Church according to the 2013 Scottish Household Survey that was revised I October 2015.

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