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Further Research: Stronger as One?

Further statistical research into the impact of benefice structure on numerical growth

Following initial work as part of the church growth research programme, we are pleased to publish this further piece of research, into the impact of amalgamations and team ministries on church growth. The initial findings on this complex issue generated significant interest. The new research enables us to reach firmer conclusions about the impact of benefice structure on numerical growth.

The full report can be downloaded by clicking here.

The key findings of this new research are:

  • The effect of amalgamations on the growth or decline of church attendance is complex, and varies considerably by diocese and by geographical access to services (a practical measure of rurality).
  • In urban areas, benefice structure does not have any statistically significant effect on the likelihood of growth or decline in attendance being experienced by a parish. It should be noted that in urban areas there are relatively few large multi-parish benefices.
  • Within other areas there is evidence that parishes in amalgamated benefice structures perform differently in terms of numerical growth outcomes compared with parishes in single church benefices. However, there is not a simple ‘straight-line’ pattern of the more churches that are added to the amalgamated structure, the greater the chance of decline.
  • In remote rural areas there is evidence that parishes in amalgamated benefice structures perform less well in terms of numerical growth outcomes than parishes in single church benefices (although once again it is not the case that the larger the size of the amalgamation, the greater the chance of decline).
  • There is no significant evidence to suggest a difference in attendance patterns at parishes with a Team Ministry.

The further research was undertaken by the Revd Dr Fiona Tweedie, a Minister and the Mission Statistics coordinator for the Church of Scotland (who has previously taught statistics at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh). Dr Tweedie used the same methodology to analyse growth as that employed in the core strands of the research programme by Professor David Voas from the University of Essex. She also built upon the analysis of the previous report by, for example, using data on multi-church parishes that were not included previously.