Archive for the ‘Church attendance’ category

SECULARISATION IN EUROPE: A GENERATIONAL SHIFT

December 2, 2011

At the recent meeting of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Mission Commission I presented a 25 minutes overview of several of the main features of Europe that we have been researching and which impact the mission of the Churches. One of those concerns work on the generational impact of the 20-29 year olds on trends relating to secularisation.

Six questions from the European Values Study (1980 and repeated in 1989, 1999 and 2008, the latter including 47 countries) form the basis for our ‘Nova Index of European Secularity’:

  1. Do you believe in God?
  2. How important is religion in your life?
  3. Are you religious, non-religious or atheist?
  4. How often do you attend religious services?
  5. How much confidence do you have in the church?
  6. 6. How often do you pray?

From these measures we believe that the 2008 data points to a ‘developing post-Christendom identity’, characteristic of people who have previously been, or who remain, ‘Christian’ but who presently have no institutional affiliation (or a very diluted form of it). The data represents a shift from ‘Christendom’ religiosity to ‘post-Christendom’ spirituality, rather than from ‘Christendom’ non-religiosity towards ‘post-Christendom’ spirituality. The newly ‘spiritual’ are not on a journey towards faith but instead are on a journey away from church affiliation. Whether this data represents a deepening of secularity or a mutation of religiosity deserves closer and more rigorous attention and debate.

The EVS data indicates a markedly irreligious generation of 50-69 year olds, best characterised as ‘ideologically hostile’ to religiosity. This generation is now beginning to retire from influential roles in the media, politics, education, and the arts. The havoc that these ‘lost generations’ have wreaked – in constructing a narrative of hard secularism – may finally be waning.

Our initial analysis supports the findings of other social scientists who suggest that the current generation of 20-29 year olds is reportedly less hostile to religion and religiosity but that this may be little more than a generation best characterised as ‘benignly indifferent’ to religiosity. This more ‘open generation’ may prove to be more amenable to creating the space necessary for a discussion of religion and religiosity within the media, politics, education, and the arts.

Where post-ideological commitments like this are held relatively lightly there may yet be scope for a considered exploration of the public value of religious belief and practice.

Malawian-German Baptist partnership for growth and planting

June 22, 2011

Regina Claas

During the next five years, German Baptist Churches hope to be inspired by the example of the Baptist Union of Malawi. A partnership agreement was signed during the recent  Annual conference in Kassel. The German General-Secretary Regina Claas (from Elstal, Berlin) assured delegates that there were many things that the Baptists of Germany could learn from their Malawian sisters and brothers. One matter would be on how best to plant a church. Malawians are planting new churches on nearly a daily basis. The Baptist Union of Malawi has
200.000 members in 1.500 congregations.

The church’s General-Secretary, Vincent Chirwa (Blantyre), called on German Baptists to testify of Christ in everyday life and not feel hampered by the general opinion that one should not speak publically about matters of personal faith.

Claas expressed her longing for a new mission awakening. All members are called on to utilise their talents and expertise ‘in order to win others for Christ’. She based her concern on the fact that membership in Germany’s largest non-state church has been shrinking slowly for years. What is to be done? According to the Federation’s President, Hartmut Riemenschneider, congregations need to open their hearts to new people. The claim that they were already doing so is in many instances only a hollow phrase, for congregations are often not concerned about the desires of their visitors.

(Adapted from the EBF news source at http://www.ebf.org, original text by Klaus Roesler)

Norwegian belief and Ice Age 2

April 11, 2011

The percentage of Norwegians who claim to attend church at least once a month has declined over the last ten years from 11 to 7% of the population, according to the Norwegian BAR magazine. During the same period, the percentage of self-described ‘atheists’ has increased from 10 to 18%. The percentage of children being baptised has fallen from 81% in 2000 to 68% in 2009. Figures from the Norwegian Research Institute, KIFO, indicate that while 81% of the Norwegian population remain in membership of the Norwegian (Lutheran) Church, this figure falls to 72% among the 20-30 year olds. However, census figures returned to the Church in March 2011, showed that the average Church of Norway member went to church once a year in 2010, that in 2010, 78% of Norwegians were church members, 66% had their children baptised, and confirmations had declined from 68.3% in 2000 to 64.9% in 2010. The percentage of Norwegians opting for a Church funeral was 91.1% in 2010.

In their book ‘Religion in Norway today: between secularism and secularisation’ Ulla Schmidt and Pål Ketil Botvar, point to the significant numbers of Norwegian young people who are leaving the Church for new religious movements. Meanwhile, and lending support to europeanmission’s own pan-European research (download from here), there is a noticeably low level of religious orientation and activity among 55-65 year olds. Botvar comments ‘This group has been vaccinated against religion.’

Consequently, the opinion shapers for the last ten to fifteen years in the media, education and government appear to have been active secularists and it may be that children and young people are gaining most of their religious impressions from the globalised entertainment industry.

Norwegian Professors, Liv Lied and Dag Øistein Endsjø, responsible for a book on religion and popular culture in Norway, suggest that Norwegian young people are far more likely to have learnt about ‘a ship that rescues animals from a flood’ from Ice Age 2 than from the book of Genesis. Consequently the religious preferences of many young people are drawn from popular culture and not the traditional teaching of the church. The authors argues that the Church has to understand popular culture in order to know how best to communicate with and disciple young people today. Equally importantly, the authors describe religious identity in Norway as something that is built according to personal choices and preferences – the Church cannot assume that it’s dogmatic teachings are being accepted without challenge or adaptation.

The willingness of the Norwegian church to adapt does not seem to be an issue, rather it seems to be a failure of the Church to understand what kind of religious identity and experience Norwegians want and how best to address that with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God – do the maths!

March 28, 2011

The BBC reported last week on the mathematical modelling of census data from nine countries that predicts the death of religion in those countries by 2050 or thereabouts. I take seriously the work of social scientists and am impressed with the way that mathematical modelling can predict scenarios that might otherwise be difficult, even impossible, to construct. However, it’s important to keep a firm grip on the fact that mathematical modelling constructs models and scenarios based on non-mathematical assumptions. If the assumptions lack imagination, the model may fail to convince or satisfy, however sophisticated the modelling.

Released on the 14th January 2011, the work of three mathematicians from Northwestern University, Evanston IL, is stimulated by the growth in numbers of those who claim to be ‘non-affiliated’ when asked to indicate their religious affiliation. The research draws on data from six European countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands,  and Switzerland.) as well as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand and its predictions are said to be valid for ‘modern secular societies’. Readers of their paper will immediately recognise that its mathematical modelling is probably beyond the ability of most to offer a credible critique. I suspect that even a good number of statisticians would struggle!

However, all models need a foundation and I’d simply encourage readers to consider whether they agree with the model’s assumptions. The first assumption is that religious groups become more attractive as the number of members increases. The second is that the attractiveness of a religious group depends upon the social, economic, political and security benefits of belonging to it, in addition to the shared spiritual vision of the group.

A question to ask is whether this model can, therefore, adequately account for religious groups whose appeal is grounded in the imaginative prospect of living without the benefits listed, who stress sacrifice, and who remain unconcerned with large numbers. This alternative way of life is likely to remain convincing for some. The researchers might dismiss this as being an unappealing prospect in a modern secular society but their dismissal would be rooted in human assumptions rather than mathematical certainty.

I am as confident as are the researchers standing behind their mathematical modelling, that well beyond the predicted demise of religion in 2050, it will continue to be a vital source of personal transformation and commitment. I dare not be complacent in the face of the significant challenges posed by secular alternatives, but I remain hopeful that in Europe, as elsewhere in the world, faith will continue to provoke imagination and form followers of Christ who ‘wager on a future that verifiable experience seems to belie.’ (David Bosch) Or, to put it another way, and to quote a well known mathematician, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’ (Albert Einstein).

Average church & Danish women

January 24, 2011

A Gallup Poll conducted among 11,612 Danish adults discovered that the average churchgoer in Denmark is a female who: Is well-educated and over 60; Reads fiction every day; Goes to fitness training once or twice a week; Has a driving licence; Goes on holiday somewhere in Europe once a year, often camping; and votes centre-right (the present government).

This intriguing statistical portrait conveys the impression of treadmills all over Denmark full of churchgoing women aged over 60, presumably as preparation for their summer camping trips. The formidable reputation of female Danish Lutherans has surely increased as a consequence of this report.

Other findings confirm the previously reported low rate of regular church attendance (2%) with 24% of Danes never going to church. 32% of churchgoers are aged 12-29 years old.

You can read more of the report at the Church of Denmark’s own website by following this link.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 573 other followers