More people follow Church of England on social media than attend its services, figures reveal

(Wikimedia Commons/Hans Musil)Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower

New statistics released by the Church of England shows that more people follow its accounts on social media than attend its services.

According to The Telegraph, around 1.1 million people attend services at least once a month, while the church estimated that it reaches an online audience of 1.2 million every month through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Figures released by the Church revealed that attendance has dropped by 34,000 in one year, continuing the ongoing trend of shrinking congregations.

In 2016, an average of 927,000 people attended services each week, which is a considerable drop from October 2015, when the weekly average attendance was 961,000. The total attendance in the church has not exceeded one million since 2013, according to Daily Mail.

While the figures show a decline in physical attendance, the Church has tripled its followers on both Facebook and Instagram.

Sam Donoghue, head of children and youth ministry support in the Diocese of London, noted that the diocese had invested £3 million (US$3.9 million) in an effort to attract young people to the church. He said that some churches had launched Instagram accounts to increase young people's interest in church.

Statistics revealed that 1.5 million were reached during Christmas through the Church's award-winning #JoyToTheWorld campaign featuring short films. During Lent, 2.5 million were reached through the #LiveLent2017 project.

The Church defines "reach" as the number of people who have seen content on social media. It launched its digital campaign about a year ago as part of the Renewal and Reform program, with the intention of helping the Church become a growing church in all places and for all people.

A series of free training courses have also been launched for churches aimed at helping them promote their parishes on social media. More than half of the Church's 42 dioceses have signed up to take part in the program so far, according to Premier.

"At the heart of the mission of the Church of England is a commitment to proclaiming the gospel afresh in each generation. This year's Statistics for Mission provide a sobering reminder of the long-term challenge we face. This challenge is likely to persist for some years ahead," said William Nye, Secretary General to the Church's General Synod.

"The figures on digital impact, which we are also releasing today, show one of the ways in which we are doing that, as the online dimension of people's lives becomes ever more significant. Our challenge is to join up that growing online Church life to the physical community of Church that forms the body of Christ," he added.

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