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I think you're right, broader measures of "success" are required. There is also the question of how closely busyness correlates with depth. I find more missional folk sometime attend all sorts of things less, out of concern to leave space in their lives for non-church folk. I find more spiritual folk like to leave space for God in the quiet. When I look at the New Testament what jumps out for me is that the faith hope and love of disciples was the main measurement yardstick for Paul - what evidence was there it was increasing or decreasing? From what I recall raw numbers were one consideration amongst many for him, at best.

Are the Diocese also looking at the other stats which parishes are asked to complete - namely the weekday attendance? This would at least allow communities such as yours to register their existence. I agree that numbers tell only a partial story - but we mustn't dismiss the story they may tell. I also agree that we need to develop a much more sophisticated way of capturing data which reflects the wider mission of the church, particularly fresh expressions / emerging church.

I think it is worth pointing out that the stats are used to calculate the parish share - ie how much a church has to give towards it's upkeep plus towards diocene expenditure. The more people you find, the more you are expected to give.

It is no real surprise that some congregations are deciding that there are better ways to use their money than subsidising others - for example, one large church pretty much pays over the odds for all the others in our deanery. But then even our deanery isn't paying its own way and is being subsidised by the wider diocese. If that one large church decides to leave the Anglican communion (which is not entirely beyond the bounds of future possibilities), the rest of the deanery is snookered - all the clergy become amateur and/or part-time overnight.

Now it strikes me (and I'm not accusing anyone of anything directly) that this is something important to talk about. Fundamentally, we have to decide whether we want to pay for our own leaders and the wider Anglican structure or not. If we do, there needs to be a fair way of calculating it.

Whilst having young people might be seen as being a 'drain' which may need strategies to prevent 'penalising', is it really much different to a church with a majority of OAPs?

Actually, I suspect the truth is actually more radical. Maybe we need to face up to the fact that we're not giving enough because we're lazy. And that having subsiduary arguments about finances is actually a device we've created to waste time which we could be using to be Christ in our communities.

I think there are a number of issues/questions...

a) in a transient, mobile and 7 day week culture does "Average Sunday Attendance" accuratelt tell the story of the Church... for example in this Dioocese SUnday attendances are dropping but Church "membership" is stable (perhaps even going up slightly?) alot of the doom stats relate to who turns up weekly on Sundays... more and more Church goers do it a) less frequently on sundays for a varoety of reasons... and b) on other days.

b) how do we measure/evaluate the effectiveness/commitment of a church/community? Numbers do of course play an important part in some ways... but for me "story" is far more significant, Churches on the whole are not held accountable for the way they live and engage!

c) is "Paris Share" an appropriate or effective way to run the finances of a Diocese/Deanery... I actually believe that richer Churches DO need to subsidize poorer churches/areas... in many cases the richer churches are communter churches in nicer areas... whereas the churches/deaneries that struggle to pay do so becuase of the nature of the community not an unwillingness to give/engage... a few years back I was Youthminister in a Large wealthy evangelical church, we had a relationship with a church in the East End of London... we helped support the upkeep of their building because they simply did not have the cash... but.... they were a far more active church in the community, they engaged much more, they supported the poor and the needy, they ran health clinics, drop-ins for single parents, soup kitchens, Alpha type courses, events in the Pubs etc. The Vicar spent huge amounts of time in and on the Governiung body of several struggling inner city schools... most of their people lived their faith in the streets and the market places and gave huge ammounts of time... whereas our lot did some stuff but where far more concerned about what happened on Sunday and in Home groups. So I think rich churches SHOULD be subsidising areas where there are huge needs but little resources!

d) Even the Fresh Expressions data base has at its core two questions... How many people do you have? and When do you meet? with follow ups about style and definition... I would much rather see questions about ethos, rythmn and mission... "tell us your story" not just "please put the numbers in the boxes".

I don't have answers, I just think that we are being asked to reflect at a superficial level... on schemes to make the current system look like it works... tweaks as it where... rather than looking at the fundamental structures and questions!

I'm not disagreeing with you, Mark, the system is clearly not fit for purpose.

I didn't think you were Joe... I think both you and Andrew make valid points. My problem is that as you say, the church is spending time looking for a way to make it work rather than asking is it the right place to start... or at least is it time to rethink!?

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