They shall run and not be weary …

‘Bishop – what we really need is to get the age of this congregation down a bit …’ I’m almost certainly not the only bishop to whom that was said this morning. It was said in the context of a faithful congregation, a church lovingly restored … So I said what I always say when I want to be reassuring: ‘But, of course, you have to remember that the average age of people in a rural community is significantly higher than it is in the cities …’ True. But not as high as that of the average rural congregation. So, to go one layer further down …. I might have said, ‘The age profile of the congregation is unlikely to change unless you review the way in which you worship.’ But then I should also have said what I also know to be true, ‘Even if you alter the way you worship, that will not of itself draw younger people into active membership of your congregation.’ It just isn’t as easy as that. There is no single answer. It is partly to do with a new kind of authenticity and integrity in church communities – so that their roots go down deeper into the realities of both life and spirituality. It involves new ways of forming relationships and building networks in this very secular society. There is a need for a sort of entrepreneurial spirit which sees opportunities of growth and grasps them with both hands. If only I could describe that in a way which would answer the question, ‘So what should we actually do?’

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