Chapter 9: Case Study - Local Church Statistics


Good research can help us properly reflect on the place we find ourselves.  Evidence-based research is an accepted part of modern life and the dialogue it creates can powerfully help local churches consider before God their place in the mission to today’s world (Barley, 2006).


Introduction

This chapter presents a case study of one Church of Scotland congregation allowing an examination of concrete examples indicative of the range and types of data available in a congregational setting.  Locally generated and collated material was gathered and augmented with information from a variety of other sources including the Church of Scotland statistical parish profile information (derived from the 2011 census) as well as relevant regional and national statistics.  This information was presented to a variety of audiences within the congregation including the Kirk Session, committees and focus groups, each engaging in what might be termed ‘reflexive monitoring’ (Carroll, 2000), that is, being aware of  information to guide decision making.


As the various groups or entities interacted and responded to the information, a critical examination of how members and office-bearers of the congregation responded and reacted to data of a quantitative nature being offered to them for their consideration and forward planning.  Areas of interest include the general attitude to statistics, the perceived value or otherwise of the data offered and ultimately whether the data presented can, and does, lead to new outlooks and altered actions.


The congregation participating in this examination was Kilsyth Anderson Memorial Church, the congregation where the writer is currently the minister of Word and Sacrament and has been since 2013.  As a minister, I have ready access to a wide range of local resources, including the opportunity to observe and to interact regularly with the principal office-bearers and others, both within and external to the church community.  


Congregational Information and Data

This congregation of Kilsyth Anderson Memorial Church (referred to locally as the Anderson Church) is typical of many Church of Scotland congregations, both in its composition, and its modes of operation.  Geographically, it is situated in a central location within the town of Kilsyth on Kingston Road, part of the main highway through the town.  It is adjacent to a busy hotel and restaurant and arguably placed in an advantageous position regarding both visibility and accessibility.  The Anderson Church has occupied this position since 1893 and is, therefore, a local landmark as well as a cherished local institution. 


Historically, the congregation had denominational affiliations to the Relief Church, United Presbyterian Church, then the United Free Church, before coming into the Church of Scotland in 1929.  In terms of character, Kilsyth Anderson has enjoyed a long history of evangelical polity and in recent years a strong preaching tradition has been evident, enjoyed and valued by church members.


In the town of Kilsyth, there are six other congregations representing a variety of Christian traditions, so within the ‘Christian marketplace’, there is both choice and competition. Furthermore, many community groups and leisure activities exist, creating a vibrant and challenging social environment for the available time and the attention of local people.  How the local congregation understands its ‘ecology’ (Ammerman, 1998, p. 40) its potential and its dangers will undoubtedly have a significant impact on both its present and its future.


My initial reaction, when inducted into the charge in March 2013, was that there were clear indications that the people of this congregation exhibited a passion for their local church fellowship.[1] What was also obvious was that the congregation was composed predominately of retired and older adults. The stories of the congregation’s identity emphasised an evangelistic orientation, but first impressions were of a congregation reflecting the values and practices of a ‘sanctuary’ church (Ammerman, 1998, p. 100).


Part of any new minister’s activities involves gathering pertinent information on their charge and its people.  From the outset, I decided to collect, collate and to analyse as much information as possible to provide an evidence base from which to make strategic leadership decisions.  At various points, the data has been shared with the Kirk Session of the congregation and with a small number of focus groups; information gathered from these various bodies will comprise parts of the discussions below.  In particular, I have detailed response and reaction arising out of their encounter with various pieces of data.


Congregational Demographics

From the outset of my tenure, it was clear that beyond basic numbers of members and adherents there was limited information on congregational demographics.  An update of our data records carried out to conform to new data protection legislation provided an opportunity to confirm the veracity of our information and to gather some additional information including the dates of birth.  In light of this new data an age profile of those who were members or adherents of the church was constructed (Graph 12).  70.7% of the church membership was found to be aged 65 or more; indeed, the median age of members or adherents of the congregation was 71 years old. [2]  Given that life expectancy is approximately 76.6 for males and 81.3 for females in this part of Scotland (National Records of Scotland, 2015) then it is reasonable to deduce that, on the face of it, this congregation is in desperate need of attracting new and younger members if it is to thrive.[3],[4]



Graph 12: Kilsyth Anderson Age Profile

 

When this specific issue was raised with the focus groups, the point was quickly recognised and agreed and had indeed also formed part of previous discussions within the Kirk Session.  The Kirk Session similarly, and in parallel to this congregational demographic, faced the problem itself of an ageing church leadership with the average age of elders being 72 years old.[5]

 

The Kirk Session, as the key decision-making group of the church, was broadly representative of the age profile of the congregation.  Whilst this is positive, in some respects, it does, however, pose questions relating to the ability of leaders to adequately understand and respond to age groups of the different generations – precisely the groups which were either entirely missing or comprising very small numbers within the congregation.  The national church, being aware of a similar pattern in many congregations, highlighted the need for Kirk Sessions and other church bodies to engage young people in church decision making[6]. However, to date, this has not been acted on locally.

 

Whilst it is clear that the congregation is predominately elderly in composition, this information stands in contrast with the community in which the church is situated (Graph 13).  The early suggestion of the congregation exhibiting a ‘sanctuary’ orientation appears to have some validity.



Graph 13: Age Profile comparison of Community with Congregation

 


A further analysis of the age profile by gender of the congregation (Graphs 13 and 14) highlighted that, given life expectancy information, there was a particular vulnerability in the potential near future loss of a significant number of men.  At present, there is a group of men, being retired and still physically able, actively holding key leadership positions within the congregation.[7]





Graph 14: Male and Female Age Profiles

 

Church Response

The age profile of church members, adherents and office-bearers allied to an acknowledgement that fewer men are associated within the life of the local church generated a number of discussions and decisions.[8]

 

First of all, the Kirk Session gave permission for workgroups to be formed.  The groups were to bring initiatives and recommendations to the Kirk Session and would also be given a fair amount of latitude to act in accordance with the understood values of the congregation, without having specific permission given.  Areas of work designated for these new groups were: Mission, Membership Issues (Pastoral care), Ministry (of God’s people), Spiritual Maturity and Youth.  The groups were open to involvement by all interested people within the congregation.  This initiative immediately drew in individuals previously outside the decision making processes and allowed various strands of new work to be developed.  Having the groups led by trusted people and with regular reporting back to the Kirk Session has allowed this to be a welcome and at least initially, productive innovation.

 

In addition to the wider informal participation in decision making, the Kirk Session has also subsequently admitted, through ordination, six new elders thereby reducing their average age as a group.

 

It was acknowledged by all the focus groups that the congregation was an older group of people.  The view was expressed that there was, within the congregation generally, a desire to see younger people become involved in the life of the congregation.  The solutions proposed by participants tended to be expressed in terms of bringing children and youth into church related activities, even though recent retention rates from youth programmes was negligible.

 

There was little consideration of direct engagement with people in the age range of 25 – 64 years, even though they comprised 65% of the local community. Specific programmes and activities directed towards the adult cohort were not initiated for various reasons.  Firstly, there was an expectation that existing groups and activities already fulfilled the role of actively engaging with the larger adult community by offering opportunities.   Secondly, even though the evidence was clear that it did not reach that portion of society, the logic would be considered validated when one or more individuals took part in activities or meetings, even when it was only for a limited period.

 

One useful insight that explains why the majority segment of the community was not directly targeted came to light within one focus group when it was suggested that the age structure of the congregation was not, in fact, dissimilar to that of the wider community.  When Graph 13 was presented to that group, it came as something of a surprise and one which caused an immediate re-evaluation of the situation. 

 

This particular episode highlights that, without access to concrete statistical information on the parish composition, it is possible that church people will make decisions based on a distorted view of reality.  The distortion here is likely to come by being reliant on personal experience gained largely through informal and unconscious sampling processes, undertaken during personal activities.  On analysis, such activities might be based on their experience of congregation events and groups or during the normal routines of everyday living, such as shopping, which of course would normally happen during the late morning, early afternoon periods of the day when fewer younger people would be present.

 

 Community profiling through experience can create a misleading and distorted understanding of reality.  The benefit of ‘hard’ data in understanding the local context should not be overlooked or underestimated.  However, it has been my experience, working within both presbytery and congregation positions, that local church members often have a limited comprehension of community demographics, particularly sectors of the community in which they do not regularly participate or associate

 

The local congregational situation, where there is a smaller proportion of men involved in the congregation, reflects a situation noted in the various Scottish attendance census reports (P. Brierley, 2017; P. Brierley & Macdonald, 1985; P. W. Brierley, 2003; P. W. Brierley & Macdonald, 1995). As a response to our local situation, discussion centred around how bridges could be built with the local Boys’ Brigade company, to facilitate greater participation by boys in the life and worship of the congregation.  This hope of boys connecting with the congregation again runs counter to experience and for many years the congregation has experienced an absence of young men from formal participation.  

 

Church Membership

The slide away from organised religion, in the Scottish context, has been widely examined by many researchers (P. W. Brierley & Macdonald, 1995; Callum G. Brown, 2001; Bruce, 1995) and that downward movement is reflected in the graphed number of official members of Kilsyth Anderson Church (Graph 15)

 

 

Graph 15: Kilsyth Anderson Church Membership numbers 1928 – 2016

 

Recording local church membership has been a requirement of congregations for many decades and hence provides a relatively clear picture of the historical trends in the local church.  To be considered as a church member, the Kirk Session is required to assess the individual as suitable, through a willingness to undergo baptism, if not previously administered, and making a public profession of Christian faith after appropriate instruction.

 

Like most congregations of the Church of Scotland, the majority of membership losses at Kilsyth Anderson church occur through the death of members.  This loss is augmented with a process, at infrequent periods, when inactive members are removed from the membership roll.  These losses together account for the greater part of the annual decline.  To counteract the effect of membership loss, a congregation requires to continually add new members.  It is worth noting that in addition to a public profession of faith, entrance to membership can also come via other means such as transference from another Church of Scotland congregation or Christian denomination or returning to active participation in membership having been previously removed from the membership roll for lack of interest or participation.

 

When Graph 15 was made available to the Kirk Session and the focus groups for discussion, it appeared as something of a revelation for although people knew the church had, over a period, lost members, the duration and the extent of that decline had been largely unexamined.  The stark reality of their situation as a congregation was clear and obvious and for some in the groups, quite shocking.  This was particularly true when a further graph of the period of decline was produced (Graph 16) incorporating a trend line (red dotted line) indicating one possible future regarding membership numbers.

 

 

Graph 16: Kilsyth Anderson Membership 1954 – 2016

 

The immediate and heartfelt response was that something needed to be done or a response had to be found to counter the anticipated trend.  Individuals were able very quickly to understand the present situation but also, without much encouragement, to predict possible future scenarios.  For example, given the age profile of the congregation, there was an understanding that the effects of members dying would mean a quickly diminishing essential resource of people. The ‘demographic time bomb’ facing the Church of Scotland generally, is an issue also clearly facing Kilsyth Anderson Church and therefore a key motivation towards discussion of the future shape of the church and the possibility of change.

 

An issue which was common in the local conversations and responses was that little, if anything, proposed was novel.  There were no new insights into community dynamics or better engagement with the personal spiritual search of a different generation.  Indeed, the ideas proposed were often a newer version of what had happened at some point in the past without necessarily having any deeper understanding of the significant changes in society or that the church’s modes of operation might require to be significantly revised to connect with its community.

 

If there was a point of challenge to the data itself, then it would normally be manifest towards the accuracy or meaningfulness of the church membership figures.  Locally, this point made good sense for two reasons; firstly, there was a significant number of members who did not attend Sunday services; secondly, the local congregation comprised many regular adherents, whose activities and level of engagement in the life of the church were comparable or greater than that of fully fledged members.  It was, therefore, proposed and acknowledged, that the church membership data did not accurately chart the actual vibrancy of the congregation.  The church administration did keep records of people in regular contact with the congregation.  This information has been streamlined into four categories: members, adherents, associates and visitors.  In line with the understanding of the Church of England, the first three categories would constitute the number considered to be part of the worshipping community.[9]

 

At the same time, there was general agreement that the church ought to be missionary in its outlook, calling on men and women to make a public profession of their Christian faith.  It was suggested that the Anderson church had a history of being ‘evangelical’ in orientation.  It was further stated in one focus group that Kilsyth Anderson church also regarded itself currently as ‘evangelical’ in nature.[10]   When pressed on the meaning of ‘evangelical’ it was indicated that the intended meaning of the word was ‘seeking to win people to Christ’.  Given that self-understanding when the group was presented with Graph 17, indicating the number of individuals who had made a profession of faith over time, it was hugely disappointing.  The recent segment of the chart was again generally known, but there was surprise at the extended period during which small numbers made a profession of faith.



Graph 17: Kilsyth Anderson Professions of Faith 1956 – 2014

 

Each segment of data presented, began to build a clear and consistent message, that the local congregation had been in a situation of decline for many years, which prompted one contributor to suggest that the evidence might indicate that in the near future a union with a nearby church was now perhaps very likely.  This indicated the second type of response which was one containing a mixture of fatalism, demoralisation and sadness. 

 

In the main, groups presented with factual information would often exhibit a mixture of emotions, both positive determination towards change and weary despondency, within the same meeting.  The negative effect on morale in the face of challenging statistics is one which some church ministers highlighted in the earlier survey of ministers.[11] This unsettling of a congregation was cited by some ministers as a reason not to employ statistics (or at least bare statistics) with church groups and individuals.  An alternative approach is to accept that disaffection with the present is a necessary precursor towards a movement for change.  Bridges, highlighting the power for change that comes from dissatisfaction said,

 

the first task of transition management is to convince people to leave home (Bridges, 2009, p. 37).

 

Church Attendance

An analysis of church attendance has long been regarded a better measure of the life of a congregation than church membership (Hoyt, 2007).  Kilsyth Anderson church has, during this ministry, collected weekly figures in this regard.  However, as is clear from Graph 18, interpretation of such figures is not without difficulty.  The issue, which is apparent, is that of considerable weekly variability.  During a normal year, all congregations have a range of special services and special seasons which directly affect attendance levels.  Peaks in attendance may occur when, for example, there is a baptismal service to which the family group invite family and friends to attend.  Services which include youth organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade or Girls’ Brigade, will likewise a show as a peak with their attendance and the presence of supporting parents and grandparents.  Other special services where attendance might show a marked increase would include civic services such as Remembrance Sunday or event based celebrations such Harvest Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Troughs in attendance can be noted during holiday periods and, in this particular congregation, at services where the sacrament of communion is celebrated.[12]


 

Graph 18: Kilsyth Anderson Sunday Morning Church Attendance 2013-2015

 

Although the attendance chart is complex, the focus groups were none the less able, with the help of a church calendar of Sunday events, to discern the general pattern that when special services were held, then more people came to services.  Given that particular causal link, discussion immediately turned towards whether additional special services or events could be added during the year to boost attendance and therefore the missionary potential of the congregation.  It was understood that attendance, in itself, was not the important thing except that it represented a measure of opportunity to make a presentation of the Christian message to those who might otherwise not hear one.

 

One question which groups found difficult to answer from Graph 18 above is ‘do we know if the overall attendance is increasing or decreasing?’  A useful tool in this regard is the cumulative attendance total chart which, in graphical form, presents the same information for weekly attendance through the year.  This simple graph (Graph 19), therefore can, at a glance, tell how well attendances are doing when compared with previous years.  The graph below, gives the cumulative attendance information for the year beginning 16th of March 2014 for 12 months alongside the same period the following two years, for comparison.

 


Graph 19: Kilsyth Anderson Cumulative Attendance 2014 to 2017

 

Coming after previous graphs, this particular information and visual brought some measure of hope that people were at least coming along to worship, even if, at this point, attendance was not being seen in new professions of faith.  This insight led on to further discussion about the changing nature of membership, as viewed by the general population and the inherent limits and dangers of relying completely on official membership figures.  At the same time, it also negated some of the imperative for change since it removed any immediate threat to the Sunday morning gathering for worship; of course, in the face of the picture from the data as a whole, such complacency would be misguided. 

 

Worshipping Community

As a concept, that of the worshipping community gives an additional and helpful understanding of the true scale of involvement in worship.  Gathering statistics on the true size of the worshipping community, however, presents some challenges in an age where there is more variability in the frequency of worship attendance even amongst those considered core members of the congregation.  Research presented by Benson and Roberts (2002) highlights the benefits in conducting an attendance census over a period of eight weeks, compared to a single Sunday or an average of Sundays.  This work, likewise, draws attention to an important distinction to be made between Sunday worshippers (modal participants) and those involved in other weekday opportunities for worship (church life participants).

 

The method used by the Church of England is less onerous in that it asks congregations to record the number of worship participants over the course of a month.  During this period, data is gathered on all who attend both Sunday and other services, by means of a register of people, from which is compiled a set of data indicating attendance in three groups – a ‘core’ number who attend 3 or 4 Sundays, a ‘regular’ group who attend twice in the month and a ‘casual’ group who attended once during that month. 

 

In June of 2017, an attempt was made to measure the size of the local worshipping community.[13] The methodology used was, first, to produce a printed list of all registered members, along with lists of church adherents and associates, which was marked up over four Sundays to indicate a person’s attendance.  If a person was not on the list, having been omitted or was a visitor to the church, then that would be recorded on a blank piece of paper. The data from the information collected was then easily tabulated in Table 25: Adult Worshipping Community June 2017.

 

Number of Sundays in attendance

Category of attender

Number of adults

1

Casual

39

2

 

Regular

44

3

37

4

Core

37

Total

 

157

Table 25: Adult Worshipping Community June 2017

 

The total of 157 refers to unique individuals, a statistic which is not apparent when looking at the total adult attendance for each Sunday, which in this case was 101, 97, 92 and 93 adults for the respective Sundays. 

 

There are three other categories which ought to be considered in this discussion.  The first is the number of ‘visitors’.  A ‘visitor’ is someone who is a member of another church (worshipping community) or who is present for a one-off special service or event and unlikely to return, except in the case of another similar occasion.  Over June Kilsyth Anderson had only two visitors.

 

Secondly, children and youth present will also be part of the worshipping community and information on the composition of this group can be obtained from crèche and Sunday School registers.[14]  The third group which should also be formally included within the data to compute the size of the community comprises those, who are listed as church members or adherents, but who, over the chosen month, were unable to attend due to illness, disability or general debility. 

 

These numbers as demonstrated above, are not difficult to ascertain and do present a much more realistic figure representing the true size of the Sunday worshipping community.  An extension of the process to discover the levels of participation at midweek services or groups can, of course, also be undertaken relatively easily.

 

Youth Work

In light of the absence of young people and young adults in the normal Sunday congregation, discussions during congregational conference sessions and within the Kirk Session Youth Committee raised the desire for a locally employed worker.  The role of such a worker would be to build bridges between the church and local families and between the youth organisations and the church.  The Board of Managers[15] was approached to identify sources of revenue for such a post and an amount of money was identified within church reserves which they were willing to release to support the employment of a part time youth and family worker over an initial one-year period.  After a 6-month period, it was clear that there was little impact being made by this approach.  The solution to missing young people often is the employment of a youth worker.  The evidence, however, of this approach, is unproven locally.

 

Youth activities in the congregation have, in recent years, focused largely around the uniformed organisations of the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, both being well regarded and very active (Graph 20: Youth Organisations Membership).  The clear objectives of both organisations are that they act as evangelical agents, in their respective spheres, for the local church.[16],[17],[18]  Locally, the brigades do attract a proportion of young people from the community (approximately 9%),[19] many of whom do not have active church connections.  In a small local survey of the parents of young people in the church uniformed organisation, it was found that whilst 69% of parents completing the survey indicated that they do not attend church regularly 91% of those parents still expressed the view that the Christian nature of the organisation was important to them.  There is, however, international research evidence to suggest that the formal religious participation of young people follows closely to that of parents or peer pressure. (Hoge, Petrillo, & Smith, 1982; Vaidyanathan, 2011).  If this pattern is true locally, then the later non-involvement of the young people in formal church participation, is explained. 




Graph 20: Youth Organisations Membership

 

An issue raised early on in most of the focus groups was the danger of statistics being potentially misleading or at least only giving a partial report.  This was highlighted well when looking at the statistics for the youth organisations which in Graph 20 above appear to show a reasonably stable picture of attendance over time.  When the numbers are disaggregated into the component organisations then a different picture of reality is displayed (Graph 21).  It becomes evident that there is growth within the Boys’ Brigade company whilst the Girls’ Brigade is seen to be having difficulty recruiting new members, retaining current members, or both.

 


Graph 21: Disaggregated Membership Numbers for BB and GB

 

As the focus groups discussed the differences, it was noted that on the same night the Girls’ Brigade meets, some other groups, aimed at young females, meet in the community, with the same intensity of competition not apparent for young males.  The issue of competition for the time and attention of young people is one which churches have sometimes ignored in favour of retaining traditional patterns, which may need to react to a changing social environment.

 

Marriage

Additional evidence of the reduction of young adults actively connecting with the church can be seen in the liturgies which mark rites of passage previously undertaken by that age group such as marriage and the arrival of a baby.

 

It is certainly true that the number of marriages throughout Scotland has declined in recent Scottish history.  However, that decline has been relatively gradual (Graph 22), whereas local church records indicate an almost complete collapse.  Here in the Anderson Church, marriages moved from a peak of around 30 per year in 1956 (corresponding to the period of highest membership in the local church) to only a few weddings in recent years (often of non-church attending people).  Nationally the percentage of weddings conducted by the Church of Scotland, almost halved in the period 2005 to 2015.[20]

 

 

Graph 22: Total of Marriages in Scotland 1971 – 2014

 

The focus group discussion considered and agreed with the proposal that changes in public morality meant that couples often now choose to live together prior to marriage and indeed continue to do so without being married.  However, this response again seems to miss the statistical point, that the state of marriage per se, is still being entered into but that the local church is now not the preferred venue for an increasing number of couples. 

 

Unmarried partners deciding to have children together without the early consideration of marriage is also becoming more common.  It is possible, even likely, that the church’s stated or perceived view of a morality of sex only within marriage may mean that many young people and adults feel uncomfortable, even alienated, given the choices they make and certainly there is some evidence to suggest a negative correlation between sexual permissiveness and church attendance (Jensen, Newell, & Holman, 1990),

 

Baptism

As the focus groups examined the statistics relating to baptisms, (Graph 23) it was acknowledged that with fewer young people seeing the relevance of the church to their life and situation, then this practice would naturally, also be adversely affected.  It might be noted that requests for baptism when they do arise, often come as a direct result of prior discussions with parents and grandparents who, having had a previous church upbringing or present church connection, see some particular value in the action (sometimes of a superstitious nature).  When approached for infant baptism to be dispensed and having had some discussion with the parents it is often felt by the parents that a church ceremony of thanksgiving and blessing would be more appropriate.

 


Graph 23: Number of Baptisms 1908 – 2014

 

The recent statistics of Kilsyth Anderson church would validate the declaration contained in a report of the 2003 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on baptism which states,

 

we must face the truth that, for large sections of the Scottish population, the celebration of baptism has ceased to have the meaning and significance that it had for previous generations.[21]

 

Voas highlights the reducing cycle of intergenerational transmission of the faith with the consequential decline, over time, of the practices of the faith such as baptism (Voas, 2006).

 

A secular rite of passage to highlight and celebrate a new baby has been initiated by the government through the provision of a ‘Name of the Baby’ ceremony administered by local registrars.  At present, the uptake of this service in North Lanarkshire is limited[22] by parents seeking an alternative rite to mark the addition of a child into the family, but its existence provides another signal of a more general move away from the church for the general population.

 

Sunday School

The other central area of regular active work with children and young people in Kilsyth Anderson Church has historically been through the Sunday School and Bible Class, both of which currently meet on a Sunday morning during the normal morning service.  The size of these groups, which numbers fewer than ten children most Sundays, is a direct reflection of the small number of young families present in the congregation.  Indeed, in some cases, young children are brought to church by their grandparents, though this tends to result in erratic patterns of attendance for the children.

 

Statistical information, historical or current, has not been gathered for Sunday school attendance or involvement, but it is widely known and accepted that current levels of involvement are much smaller than in previous years.  Discussion with the Sunday School leadership has resulted in only a limited response to this information, involving their attendance at some regional training events or in initiatives to maximise invitation to participation during special services when more families (and hence children) will be present.  The results of these efforts have made no real impact towards increased weekly involvement.

 

Community Statistics

The local church, if it seeks to connect with its local community in a meaningful way, needs both to understand the community and also to understand its role within it.  As discussion took place within church groups about how the congregation might grow numerically in areas such as attendance, membership or general participation, naturally there was necessarily reflection required on the composition and nature of the local community.

 

The focus groups and the more formal church groups had a high level of confidence that they both knew and adequately understood the community, in which many of them have lived in since birth.  There was an appreciation that it was a community which had undergone some significant changes in past years but that did not diminish their view that the community was a well-known entity to them.  Iinformation was presented to the various groups arising out of statistics gathered from the 2011 census. 

 

The Parish Statistics Report provided had been produced by the Church of Scotland Statistics for Mission group for each congregation.[23]   This is the second compilation of parish statistics developed specifically to assist with local mission planning.[24]  Originally, it was considered to be a tool which would assist in the implementation of the recommendations found in the Church without Walls report.  Part of that report was that congregations should undertake a community audit (Church of Scotland Special Commission anent Review and Reform in the Church, 2001).   In 2013 the Church of Scotland Statistics for Mission group produced and disseminated updated parish information based on the results of the 2011 census.  The information was accompanied by a self-help PDF booklet for congregations entitled, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ written to assist congregations using the census information to determine ‘real needs’ as opposed to ‘perceived needs’ (Statistics for Mission, 2016, p. 4).  The writer from ‘Faith in Community Scotland’, a charitable body working with faith communities to address issues of poverty and justice, claim that

 

Community research is a necessary part of the foundation upon which good effective church activities are built (Statistics for Mission, 2016, p. 5) .

 

The strategic value of this information is underlined by the assertion,

 

The more we understand our parishes, those that live in them and their needs, the more we can serve God in being effective in mission (Statistics for Mission, 2016) .

 

Sadly, though the booklet produced gives much encouragement to use the facts and figures to understand the local community better and to assist the local congregation in making plans, it does little to connect the actual production of the Statistics for Mission parish statistics and the pieces of advice or examples cited.  What at first appears to be a practical guide turns out to be anecdotal, theoretical and with links to information sources, but without much guidance on how best to make use of the information presented.

 

The local church groups provided with the parish information from the 2011 census discussed key areas.  The first related to the demographics of the area, already highlighted above.  The second area of interest was the religious makeup of the community which, according to responses given in the 2011 census, meant that 30% of the population of the town of Kilsyth identified themselves as ‘belonging to the Church of Scotland (Graph 24).[25]  



Graph 24: Kilsyth Anderson Census Religious Affiliation

 

This figure represents 3,138 people, relating that number to the estimated number[26] regularly attending church services, means that around 93% of that group of affiliates are not currently active in attending either of the two local Church of Scotland congregations.[27]  Whilst this might, in one sense, be discouraging, it does, however, point towards a large group within the community who claim some level of sympathy or alignment with the denomination.  This group, whose sense of belonging is by association rather than by participation, identifies an important segment within the missionary challenge of the local church (Thomas, 2003).

 

In terms of mission to the community, it may be anticipated that this group would be the most receptive to an invitation to attend a church based or church run event and therefore, appropriate resources ought to be channelled towards this end.[28]  When this figure was raised within meetings, there was scepticism about whether this group was the most open to being approached. Individuals from within the community could be cited as once having come to church but were known to be disenfranchised and alienated. 

 

Research undertaken by Tearfund (Ashworth & Farthing, 2007) highlighted that within the ‘believing without belonging’ (Davie, 1994) segment of the community, the largest segment could be considered ‘closed de-churched’, that is one-time churchgoers who are unlikely to return.  More recent Scottish based research conducted by Dr Steve Aisthorpe,  examining The Invisible Church, similarly notes that there are significant groups within a community who claim some measure of faith but who do not regularly engage with local congregations (Aisthorpe, 2016).  While some perceive difficulties in re-engaging with this group, others suggest that given the correct approach, along with relevant activities and genuine Christian community, then the human desire for a sense of belonging will bring people back (Richter & Francis, 1998).

 

While it is helpful having the numbers of the various religious allegiances within the area, it would be helpful for planning purposes to know where different belief groups were concentrated.    The mission group of the Kirk Session was provided with data from the 2011 census along with work done by Datashine Scotland (Datashine, 2016) who have mapped the census return data at postcode level.  Viewing the responses to the religious question in the census provides a helpful and easily accessible map indicating the geography of pattern of belief.

 


Map 1: Kilsyth - Distribution of Church of Scotland Affiliation

 

Map 1 gives an indication of those areas of Kilsyth with the highest relative proportion of census respondents who answered, ‘Belonging to the Church of Scotland’.  This information provides an invaluable aid to direct appropriate energy and resources.  Similarly, maps indicating the areas, for example, of the highest density of ‘No religion’ (Map 2) may help direct the distribution of focused literature and other forms of contextually appropriate mission engagement or activity. The information would contribute valuable knowledge towards the production of a Mission Action Plan (Chew & Ireland, 2009) or similar mission based strategy as might be found in the mission goals section of a Local Church Review.

  


Map 2: Kilsyth - Distribution of ‘No Religion’ Affiliation

 

However, it was discovered that, when faced with novel information of this type, group members were unable to transition easily from the data towards action.  The idea of targeted mission initiatives to different faith positions was not something previously encountered locally.  Both the parish statistical profile and the Datashine maps provided information previously unexamined but which contained important strategic data. 

 

A piece of data which was noted within the Parish Statistics compilation was that relating to educational attainment levels within the parish area. On examination by the groups, it was discovered that there were lower levels of attainment than had been expected (Graph 25). [29]

 


Graph 25: Local Census data on Highest Educational Qualification

 

The significantly lower number with basic or higher education qualifications raised questions about the content and presentation of church communications generally.  Is the language used appropriate and accessible?  Are the, often formal, styles of delivery helpful?  These questions specifically challenged the modes of preaching and teaching engaged. 

 

This most recent discovery about the community brought into relief the educational ability of the current congregation, many of whom are from professional occupational backgrounds or have benefited from engagement in higher educational courses.  This finding gives rise to challenging questions; ‘should there be a re-evaluation of what works best in this context?’, ‘Is the preaching model used still the best method of presenting the biblical message and meaning for this community?’ and ‘Is passively sitting in pews, so reminiscent of an academic lecture, helpful for discipleship?’. 

 

Of course, it may be that within the local Christian marketplace, our unique selling point and point of departure from other congregations is that we cater to that particular segment of Christians.  There is also an argument to be made that, to alter the present practices significantly, would be to change the ethos of the congregation and its cultural homogeneity (D. A. McGavran, 2005).

 

Another possible option is to widen accessibility rather than changing focus entirely.  To fulful that methodology, in addition, and alongside traditional means of communication, new technologies for communication can be engaged.  This has happened to some degree under my ministry with the installation of a large projection screen linked to computer presentation software which has enabled a visual liturgy with video clips, photographs, PowerPoint presentations and bible verses.  Further to this, I have had installed a Wi-Fi system which allows the use of interactive and internet learning for Sunday School children and for organisations both of whom now make extensive use of the facility, through linked laptop computers and personal tablets.

 

Visual learning gives a section of the congregation some assistance.  However, it can also create difficulties for others.  The congregation has within it those who are wholly, or partially, blind.  The provision of large screen devices for this group does not deliver any positive effect and indeed where visuals are used exclusively, then they create barriers to participation and even lead to exclusion.[30]

 


Map 3: Census question on Long-term disability – Map of Kilsyth

 

The present church plant is situated in the part of Kilsyth which, according to the population census, has the highest concentration of people with long term health problems or disabilities (map 3).  The high incidence, in the immediate locality, of individuals with specific needs was known but had not been an issue reflected upon at a strategic ministry level.  The church, therefore, had made little effort to offer additional support groups or specific worship opportunities for those affected. 

 

At present, the physical layout of the church sanctuary creates issues of accessibility for those with mobility problems.[31]  Whilst a small ramp at the rear of the church building does offer entry for wheelchair users; there is only limited space for such users due to the floor space comprising mostly fixed church pews.[32]  The present seating arrangement is limiting in a number of regards.  It creates an inflexible learning space; it is unhelpful and potentially discriminatory to those with disability.  The seating is uncomfortable and given the dominance of current Sunday attendance by older people, often with musculoskeletal and other relevant medical issues, it creates a further disincentive to continued attendance.

 

Finance

No assessment of the local congregation can pass without at least some consideration of the financial statistics of the church.  Since Kilsyth Anderson church is within the Church of Scotland denomination, there is only a limited significance attached to the financial strength of the local congregation. Indeed, as has been seen previously in the presbytery planning process adopted regionally, congregations with limited funds are not necessarily penalised. Furthermore, the denomination is organised, so that money to enable local ministry, is provided from a central fund comprising mandatory contributions from congregations assessed as able to make such contributions. 

 

Financially, the congregation of Kilsyth Anderson demonstrates a pattern of declining ordinary general income (Table 26), that is, income from congregational offerings.  This situation is unsurprising given the ageing and declining membership numbers.  Since attendance is relatively stable, it might be imagined that would offset, financially, the loss of members.  This is not the case since committed members give at a higher level and more consistently than occasional visitors.  This fact is reflected in the low correlation figure of 0.3 between weekly attendance and weekly general offering (Ammerman, 1998, p. 141).

 

Year

Ordinary General Income

2013

£76,068

2014

£75,419

2015

£70,220

 

Table 26: Financial Information 2013-2015

 

Discussion

The collection and analysis of quantitative data for local church development, planning and mission endeavour, is an obvious part of church administration, management and strategic planning, yet activity of this type is often haphazard or indeed entirely neglected.  Reasons to explain this situation are many and include a lack of strategic intent, a deficit of available planning skills or abilities, even just simple fear of what might be uncovered, the possible resultant effects on the morale or the operation of the organisation. 

 

It is, however, widely accepted that strategic planning has an important part to play in the potential effectiveness of a church’s missionary endeavour (Burns & Hunt, 1995).  A key recommendation, following the 2002 Scottish Church census, was that those in leadership should seek to become skilled in ‘strategic thinking and vision building’ (P. W. Brierley, 2003).  Although church growth in terms of numbers is, in itself, not the goal of mission work, it is clear that any church not being actively engaged in recruiting new members and new leaders will die for failing it to align itself with the biblical imperative to engage new disciples (Mead, 1995).  The good news, coming from chapters five and six of this thesis, is that the majority of ministers express the view that strategic planning for mission, based on good data, is important.

 

Objections

It has been argued that to treat the church as merely a human organisation or as a pseudo business and to utilise the ideas and understanding which lie behind strategic planning (with a view to growth) is to fundamentally misunderstand the Church and its impulses.  Some would claim it to be unspiritual to engage the tools provided by human psychology, economics or statistical trend analysis (which are a few examples of a much larger group of business disciplines and sciences).  The basic contention is that since the Church is dependent on the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit and that the ‘Spirit blows where it will’ (John 3:8 New International Version, 1984), then it cannot be contained or directed.  Planning, in that context, is seen as simple folly at best and at worst directly dishonouring the headship of Christ.  Church planning is viewed, by some, as attempting to ‘demystify the mysterious’ (Hudnut, 1975) and in that sense considered, by detractors, to be a destructive task.

 

The double action of the church, as both a conduit of divine agency as well as the place of human endeavour, is one of complexity and mystery.  However, it is important that both poles of the church’s existential reality are acknowledged and appropriate attention is given to them.

 

Organisational psychology, management theory and political science may offer rich sources of insight to add to divinity’s traditional mix of disciplines. There is an appropriate theology of institutional reform which goes along with this, neither harbouring ‘pelagian’ ambitions for the church, nor engaging in ‘docetic’ fantasies about it. Humble, imaginative, wise reform, according to Holy Scripture, interpreted under the guidance of the only-wise Holy Spirit - that is what the Church of Jesus Christ aspires to (Gay, 2017b).

 

To pray and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit is critical to the life and health of the church but so also are the patterns of practical wisdom made available via the tools of the social science or world of business.  The issue is one of practical balance where our view of the church is neither over spiritualised nor seen as essentially mechanical.   Schwarz, like Gay, argues directly against this ‘bipolar paradigm’ and favours instead a more dynamic interaction between ‘organism’ and ‘organisation’, in which both play a key role (C. A. Schwarz, 1999).

 

Strategic Intent

For any congregation, resources and energy are limited.  It is imperative then, that as good stewards of those resources, strategic decisions are taken to maximise their usefulness – this requires goal setting and planning.  Resources fall into either a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ category, ‘hard’ being countable items such as people and money with ‘soft’ referring to the connections and experiences within the congregation  (Ammerman, 1998, p. 132).

 

An obvious resource available for the work of the church is those who participate in the life of the church.  However, as Ammerman points out, people involved in the life of the local church can only be regarded as ‘potential resources’ (Ammerman, 1998, p. 135) at least until they become active in their participation and engage energy towards engagement in the work and witness of the local congregation. 

 

Peter Drucker

The writings of the management guru Peter Drucker on non-profit organisations have provided groups, like the church, with useful tools for both self-assessment and forward planning. In Kilsyth Anderson Church, the pattern for reflection and strategic planning is based on a system proposed by Drucker and set out succinctly in the book, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organisation (Drucker, Hesselbein, & Economy, 2008).  The system, which facilitates organisational self-awareness and aids focused action, is outlined and explained below. 

 

I will later compare and contrast this method with another strategic planning tool in common use called ‘Local Church Review’.  I will further discuss the function of these tools to inform the ‘pastoral cycle’, as previously encountered in Osmer’s description as set out in chapter 3.

 

The Five Most Important Questions

Drucker frames the questions in these terms,

1.      What is our mission?

2.      Who is our customer?

3.      What does the customer value?

4.      What are our results?

5.      What is our plan?

 (Drucker et al., 2008, p. xii)

 

Question 1: What is our mission?

This system begins by asking for clarity about purpose.  If you like, why does the organisation or group exist?  All non-profit organisations share a common mission and that is to bring about change.  

 

The business or mission of non-profit organizations is to make a difference in human lives.  The mission comes first.  Non-profit institutions exist for the sake of their mission (Drucker, 1993, p. 11).

 

As the Church, we have a message to proclaim of ‘Christ crucified’ and ‘risen’.   We reference Biblical revelation and truth, supremely encountered in the life and person of Jesus, which moves and motivates us to be changed as individuals, to bring about positive change to society and even to effect change throughout the world, as participants in the ongoing ‘Missio Dei’. 

 

Meantime the Church exists in mission, living by what it proclaims, and pouring its life out in service for Christ's sake and the Gospel's. It preaches reconciliation, embodies it in its own members, and seeks the reconciliation of all mankind, and so lives in Christ. Until He comes again Jesus Christ is to be found wherever there is darkness in which to shine the light of God, wherever there are lost men and women to be saved, wherever there is alienation and estrangement and division, for He has made all that His very own in order to overcome it in Himself (Torrance, 1966, p. 140).

 

The statement above highlights something of the theological complexity of trying to formulate a statement, concerning the mission of the Church, which is easily accessible and understandable, for church leaders at the congregational level.  For the purpose of planning, simple is often best and so the approach of leaders such as Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, has some merit, where mission is simply expressed as working out the Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 34-40 New International Version, 1984) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20 New International Version, 1984)(R. Warren & Warren, 1995).Simpler still is the formulation used by Bill Hybels of Willowcreek Community Church, whose mission is stated as,

 

… to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ (Braoudakis, 1997, p. 55).

 

The aim of sharing Jesus to facilitate the movement of men and women under the ‘unction’ of the Holy Spirit towards committed discipleship and all that means for the individual, the community and creation itself is a mission which meets Drucker’s requirement that mission for the non-profit organisation ought to have ‘deep meaning’ (Drucker & Collins, 2008, p. 13).

 

Question 2: Who is our customer?

The terminology at this point needs to be adjusted in an ecclesiastical environment.  The question is to identify who will be involved in taking forward the mission, both the volunteers, and those who will receive the services being offered.  The ‘customer’ therefore, is not a single entity, but a multiplicity of individuals with whom the church is engaged.

 

Those who are ‘volunteers’ may be termed ‘workers’ or ‘supporters’, even ‘partners’ in the mission, but whatever term is used, these individuals are crucial for the mission to be advanced.  In chapter 2 it was noted that, in the work of John Hayward, those who were identified ‘enthusiasts’ are the necessary core building blocks for church growth (Hayward, 2005).  In this chapter, it is clear that there are a number of identifiable constraints affecting the volunteers in Kilsyth Anderson Church.   Issues that range from lack of confidence in sharing the Church’s message, to having limited time and energy to be actively involved in activities which support or further the mission.

 

A second group of ‘customers’ are those who might receive and benefit from the services of the Church.   

 

As a denomination, local congregations are given special responsibility for the needs of those within the parish area.  In the case of Kilsyth Anderson, there is an understanding that the responsibility is not limited to the formal parish area but encompasses the whole town of Kilsyth, a responsibility which we share in partnership, through a parish grouping agreement, with the other local Church of Scotland congregation.

 

The local data, highlighted earlier in the chapter, provides the church with demographic profiles of various potential ‘customer’ groups in the town.  However, in order to effectively engage or communicate with any customer, we need to be aware of something of their value system. 

 

Question 3: What does the customer value?

 

The question, What do customers value? – what satisfied their needs, wants, and aspirations – is so complicated that it can only be answered by customers themselves.  And the first rule is that there are no irrational customers.  Almost without exception, customers behave rationally in terms of their own realities and their own situation (Drucker & Collins, 2008, p. 39).

 

Statistics have their limitations.  There are times when qualitative information must be gathered and evaluated to inform and guide decision making.  Without direct input from those with whom the church is trying to engage, will mean that, necessarily, critical decisions will be based on assumptions (often false) and/or hope.

 

In truth, the church often does hear and listen to the values and views of ‘internal customers’, that is those within the congregation and will, as a consequence, shape activities around their needs and aspirations.  However, if the mission of the congregation is to engage those beyond its walls, then intentional mechanisms for hearing the views of the ‘outsider’ will be required.  The outcome of listening ought to provide useful information for the development of appropriate initiatives.

 

Question 4: What are our results?

So far, the questions posed by Drucker, though couched in unfamiliar language for churches, are relatively uncontroversial.  Question 4 however introduces the idea of measurement and performance.  It may be that, in the present context of church decline, this area of investigation is one of extreme sensitivity for church leaders.  For some, the concept of ‘fruitfulness’ is one unrelated to that of ‘faithfulness’.  Certainly, the issue at the heart of question 4 is one on which Drucker was challenged.  He reports that when working with churches,

 

People ask, ‘How do you measure results when you know our rewards are in heaven?’  While the ultimate measurement is clearly not of this world, some measures are possible…In the church, the first measurement may be the level of new membership and the church’s ability to hold them and keep them coming and becoming more involved as unpaid staff.  These may not be precise measurements, but they are meaningful (Drucker, 1993, p. 40).

 

Discipleship, sanctification, personal holiness and a range of other outcomes related to the type of change the church works to facilitate and support are not amenable to direct measurement.  True Christian faith may reside within the heart, but an individual making a profession of personal faith may serve as a useful external proxy, though imperfect, for that inward change and reality.  The same is true of other aspects of the work of the Spirit in the life of an individual – the wind itself might not be seen, but the effect often is.

 

Church attendance may, for example, indicate one level of activity, as might involvement in various church groups, organisations or participation in church events and programmes.  This is an important point when assessing congregations using numerical facts – they may point towards a facet of reality but it is only ever part of a much more complex picture, and the numbers gathered and analysed are in many ways proxies for aspects of those.

 

Question 5: What is our plan?

Questions one to four provide the church leadership with a rich array of information which, after prayerful consideration, will help determine next steps towards missional objectives.  Drucker explains that,

 

Objectives are the specific and measurable levels of achievement that move the organization towards its goals (Drucker & Collins, 2008, p. 68).

 

In the construction of objectives, it is imperative that there are measurable assessment criteria included as a means of monitoring whether the continuing investment of congregational resources is appropriate.  The active review of any plan is a central role of leadership in order that, if required, adjustments can be made.  In a situation where an objective, after a defined period of time, demonstrates no discernible benefit towards the mission of the church, then it should be abandoned.

 

The wise application of data available within a congregation, when linked directly to the mission of the congregation, can become a powerful instrument for productive change.

 

Drucker’s scheme is clear and logical.  It engages with a range of information of all types and uses it to assess the progress of an organisation, or in this case, a congregation, towards fulfilment of its missional objectives.  It is self-reflective, flexible but with concrete outcomes, which can be easily assessed.

 

Local Church Review (LCR)

The Church of Scotland encourages all local congregations to be intentional and thoughtful in the work they undertake.  In 2010 the Panel on Review and Reform placed before the General Assembly proposals to replace the Quinquennial visitation scheme with a new system of presbytery review and oversight.[33]   The purpose of the LCR is contained within Act 1 (2011)

 

The object of the review by members of the Presbytery is to give encouragement and counsel to the congregation; to facilitate the congregation in setting out their priorities and plans for at least the next five years; and where anything unsatisfactory is found in the state of the congregation or not in accord with church law and order they shall give advice or take supportive or remedial action (The Church of Scotland, 2011).

 

An innovative feature in the LCR process was the proposal to assist a congregation, through the guidance and help of presbytery representatives, to engage in a process of creative forward planning.  This scheme has, with modifications, now been in operation by Glasgow Presbytery since it took part in a pilot scheme in 2008.  The process used, therefore, by Glasgow Presbytery, can be considered both stable and mature.

 

During 2017 Kilsyth Anderson Church received paperwork from the Glasgow Presbytery to initiate a local church review process in the congregation.  The system of review is facilitated firstly by the completion of a set of paperwork in which a number of pieces of information is required to be completed.  Section 1 asks about the history of the congregation.  The congregation is invited to chart details of its values, strengths, celebrations and learnings. The review documentation chronicles information about the congregation as it is at present and the challenges it faces.  In section 2, items of statistical information about the congregation is presented by the presbytery.  In section 3 there is an exercise in self-assessment which uses a basic scoring system, translated into graphical form, which purports to represent the ‘shape’ of the local church.  The assessment is intended to be a reflective exercise on perceived areas of strengths and weakness within the congregation. 

 

Following completion of sections one to three which is the ‘preparatory phase’, the ‘consultation phase’ then begins.  This phase consists of a visit by a local review team which is intended to assist the church leadership to review sections 1 to 3 in order to move towards completion of section 4. 

 

Section 4 offers a grid in which the plans that the congregation hopes to implement over the next five years are outlined.  The plans to be submitted, include details of what chosen action is to be addressed, when it begins and when might it end, the person responsible and what support might be required from the presbytery or wider church.  When section 4 is completed, the final ‘Reporting Phase’ results in a report being agreed by the presbytery Superintendence Committee and presented to presbytery itself for its information and approval.

 

As a tool for forward planning, there is much to commend the LCR process.  It is participative and open, allowing for flexible responses according to the differing circumstances and contexts of congregations. This new system encourages congregations to look forward, to develop a vision for their work and to make plans.   However, as a system of planning, it also has, in my view, significant flaws and limitations.

 

Firstly, there is little emphasis on setting out the specific mission of a congregation within its locality.  During the LCR process, there is discussion concerning the local community and the place of the congregation with it, but that is limited in its scope and detail.

 

It has been my experience visiting congregations as part of a LCR review team that the idea of mission has often been linked, either directly or indirectly, to the expressed ‘Vision’ of the Church of Scotland.

 

The vision of the Church of Scotland is to be a church which inspires the people of Scotland and beyond with the Good News of Jesus Christ through enthusiastic worshipping, witnessing, nurturing and serving communities (The Church of Scotland, 2017a).

 

That is a church whose mission is the activity of ‘worshipping’, ‘witnessing’, ‘nurturing’ and ‘serving’.  Information on the extent to which it ‘inspires’ the people locally is not gathered except possibly through anecdotal type evidence.

 

There is, of course, an opportunity to give some consideration of the Church Statistics profile which is available for each parish to help identification of the demographics of the local community.  There are no formal questions which link the details of parish structure with the structure of the worshipping community.  The statistics which are provided, are those of church membership, which has been examined in earlier chapters as not often representing the scale or vibrancy of the worshipping community.

 

The tool available in section 3 of the documentation presents a spider diagram indicating responses given about the relative strengths of a congregation’s life.  This innovative approach using a visual representation of the nature of the congregation is perhaps a helpful overview.  However, its ease of construction is offset by the limited information it contains – each item of the congregation’s life being reduced to a score between one and five.

 

The plans produced in section 4 are intended to flow consequentially from reflective work discussed in section 1 to 3.

 

The process should result in a Plan of Action for the congregation.  The plan should bring together the vision of the congregation for its mission over the next 5 years, taking account of its present position, its capacity and finances.  This should highlight the following as a minimum:

·         A plan of action for the forward mission and ministry of the church with goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited (SMART goals)

·         Resources available locally including human resources, buildings and finance

·         New resources required and who shall provide them.[34]

 

SMART goals, and variations of it, have been used in the world of business for many years.  The purpose is to provide focus, to consider performance and to produce discernible results.  The LCR process involves a partnership between congregation and presbytery and, through the plans presented, a measure of accountability.

 

The potential of the LCR process to provide a platform for innovative change is tremendous but only if it integrates a clear sense of local mission, with detailed understanding of the local community and the real potential existing in the local congregation, to produce effective plans.  Plans ought to be substantial and robust, certainly, if they are going to be in operation over at least a five-year period and able to be productive.  The measurable component of the SMART goal pattern is the one most often omitted, which inhibits the ability to review locally and defeats an important aspect of wider accountability.

 

There are a number of alternative similar processes which leaders can use – one of the most detailed, UK tried and tested systems for congregations, is the Mission, Action, Planning approach (Chew & Ireland, 2009).

 

The Pastoral Cycle

In chapter 3, using a pastoral cycle outlined by Osmer, the idea was highlighted that within practical theology there ought properly to be a dynamic interplay between theological theory and practice to produce renewed praxis.  In this chapter, I have noted schemes of organisational development using a system of questions proposed by Drucker and a scheme for development by the Church of Scotland which, again through a series of questions, leads towards the creation of development goals.

 

In implementing either of the schemes outlined within the context of a local congregation, clearly renewed action is the desired outcome, focused towards the development of church mission and ministry.  What is also clear is that such considered action must be borne out of an appreciation of the available data.  Drucker expressed his scheme using the language of ‘results’ and ‘customers’; the LCR process noted ‘statistics’, ‘scores’ and ‘experiences’.  In whatever way the stages of this process are described, the central consideration is to diligently collect, interpret and analyse the available pertinent ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ data.

 

What is fundamental for the operation of the pastoral cycle, as outlined by Osmer and others, is that within it appropriate reflection takes place, noting issues of purpose and meaning, particularly within biblical and theological idioms.  In Drucker’s scheme this comes through an evaluation of the ‘mission’ of the organisation.  Mission, for Drucker, can be the fundamental purpose of the enterprise or indeed component parts within it.  In the context of ecclesiastical engagement or the prosecution of elements of mission or ministry, a consideration of purpose leads inevitably into contemplation and reflection on normative Christian texts and ideas.  In the LCR scheme there are explicit questions for congregations which invite consideration of the ethos and purpose of their particular congregation, along with encouragement to link Christian values and norms to various elements of forward planning.  Each scheme, when carefully applied, taking into consideration the local information, with appropriate interpretation linked to normative Christian revelation and insight, leads to improved praxis.  It is important that the theological framework which provides both the causation and the guiding principles for action for Christian congregations are kept always in view, since these are not explicitly voiced in the language used by Drucker or LCR, so that what is ultimately proposed moving forward is based on a clear Christian foundation and understanding.  Osmer’s framework therefore provides the rationale, the process and the theological language to understand how to engage with either Drucker or LCR correctly.


Conclusion

This case study of one typical Church of Scotland congregation has brought into view the wide array of information which is available to the local church leadership.  It highlights some examples of what kind of statistical data it may be possible to gather from various sources to illuminate both the nature of the congregation and the local community.  This chapter has also provided some insight into the emotional and practical interaction of people, in leadership and outside, with the data.


Contemplation of the truth carried in numbers, graphs and tables proved to be interesting and often motivating for those who interacted with it.  To those who shouldered the weight of decision making it has also provided welcome help and guidance.  When allied to appropriate processes of planning, such as outlined in the scheme proposed by Drucker or in a properly focused presbytery LCR process then data is an invaluable asset.

 

Chapter 10



[1] There were many involved in the physical upkeep of the buildings including a rota of cleaning teams.  There were also groups involved in pastoral visiting and a group of people with a passion for prayer and for Bible study.

[2] An adherent is a person accepted by the Kirk Session as a regular participant in the life and worship of the local congregation.

[3] In Kilsyth Anderson Church 33.3 % of males are aged over 75 or over and 21% of females are age 80 and over.

[4] Historically Kilsyth Anderson church has attracted older members from nearby congregations and therefore it is possible that it could be sustained by a combination of that process and attracting older members from the community.  This idea of an older persons church would be rejected by the congregation as an ideal they would wish to embrace.

[5] With the addition of 6 additional elders this was later reduced to 68 years old. 

[6] Church of Scotland Reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2011 3/20

[7] In the Kirk Session, the average age of male elders is 72.6 years (median=77 years).

[8] There are 222 females and 96 males listed as a church member or adherent

[9] Appendix 10 provides details of how ‘Worshipping Community’ is calculated by the Church of England.

[10] David Bebbington’s description of Evangelical includes, Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a ‘born-again’ experience and a lifelong process of following Jesus.

Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts

Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority

Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity (Bebbington, 2002).

 

[11] This was noted in the survey of ministers’ attitudes to statistics in chapter 5 and in some response in chapter 7 to information from the Scottish Church Census.

[12] It has been suggested that communion attendance is low due to the significant numbers of church adherents but this has not been verified

[13] June in 2017 included a service of communion, which has often been poorly attended and a Sunday School presentation service which attracts a few extra visitors.  The other two Sundays, leading into the time of holidays often have smaller than usual attendance.

[14] In the case of Kilsyth Anderson church this did not happen since two of the four Sundays were times children were on holiday.

[15] The financial court of the congregation during that period.

[16] The Object of The Boys’ Brigade is: ‘The advancement of Christ’s kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness.’ (The Boys' Brigade).

[17] In the booklet ‘Information for Churches’ it is asserted that ‘We want to be your partner in outreach’ (The Boys' Brigade, p. 3).

[18] Girls are encouraged towards the Queens Award which sets out as one of its requirements within the ‘Faith Journey’ section, ‘To encourage girls to develop a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. To develop a commitment to Church and Christian service’ (The Girls' Brigade).

[19] From Parish Profiles for Kilsyth Anderson and Kilsyth Burns and Old Parish there are 1339 young people between 5 and 15 years of age.

[20] 23.5% of marriages reported at the end of 2005, 12.4% of marriages at the end of 2014 (Reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2005….2014).

[21] Reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 2003, 13/7 1.5.2

[22] There were 31 recorded naming ceremonies in Lanarkshire over the period 2005 to 2014 (North Lanarkshire Council, 2014).

[23] It should be noted that since Kilsyth operates as a complete unit, the given parish boundaries for Kilsyth Anderson Church are entirely artificial and in most senses meaningless for understanding the local situation in isolation from the data for the neighbouring parish of Kilsyth Burns and Old.  The statistics presented therefore are for the combined dataset of both parishes from the profiles (Statistics for Mission, 2014a, 2014b).

[24] Reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 2001 20/31 7.6

[25] The graph presented is a compilation of figures for the two Kilsyth parishes.

[26] The total number of individuals, of all ages, who regularly attend either Kilsyth Anderson Church or the Burns and Old Parish Church, based on average weekly attendance, was estimated to be 230 people.

[27] If the concept of ‘worshipping community’ were used instead of average weekly attendance, then an estimate based on the total in Table 25 above with the addition of children and housebound members would give 477 out of the 3,138 Church of Scotland affiliates.  This would mean that approximately 85% of that group could be considered as outside the worship life of the Church of Scotland.

[28] Mead (1995, p. 15) notes that although many clergy treat these ‘Mental Members’ with contempt his view, like mine, is to approach them with hope and expectation.

[29] The graph shown is for Kilsyth Anderson Parish.  The corresponding graph for Burns and Old Parish also shows a low number of people with Higher Education qualifications.  It was suggested that older people not taking qualifications when younger was the reason, but since the age profile of the town of Kilsyth is close to the overall Scottish profile that reasoning cannot account for the difference.

[30] The congregation does provide printed and braille hymn books but on-screen hymn words are sometimes different.

[31] Congregations are required by law to be aware of their responsibilities under disability discrimination legislation to be a responsible ‘service provider’ with due diligence towards the inclusion, as far as is practically reasonable, towards those with disabilities (The Church of England, 2010).

[32] A small number of pews have been removed at the front of the church to give space for wheelchairs but the area has only a limited capacity.  A further removal of pews is hampered by the presence of cast iron pipes above floor level which provides heating for the church.

[33] Reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2010 19/16 3. Local Church Review

[34] Reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland of the Church of Scotland 2010 19/27