The Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania is a mix of old and new, a survey sent to all congregations and faith communities in the Synod reveals.
While many of the 52 per cent of congregations that completed the 2017 Community Life Return reported an ageing membership, the survey also showed 50 new faith communities.
These included the Armstrong Creek church plant, the Cafe Church in Carlton and the Hoppers Crossing Playdate Cafe.
However, the Church’s future is looking quite messy, with 29 (58 per cent) of the new communities being Messy Church.
New and Renewing Communities Catalyst Mat Harry said the survey revealed “some extremely hopeful results”.
“It highlighted that many churches are recognising that our society has changed greatly and that they are attempting to ‘do church’ in new and renewing ways,” Mat said.
“Many of these initiatives appeal directly to those people who would find it difficult to belong within a more traditional Uniting Church community.”
Intergenerational renewal is certainly needed, with the surveys reporting the bulk of church and community membership being over 60, with 70-year-olds being the largest cohort.
Moderator Sharon Hollis said it was important to find ways to engage young people, especially children.
“We need to engage three to twelve-year-olds so they stay in the church by offering them a vision of faith and discipleship that will be interesting to them,” Sharon says.
“Plus, we must think about how to minister more effectively to families, because in that age group (three-12) you have to engage the whole family.”
The surveys show church membership progressively drops into the teenage years and then again into the 20s.
“I think this is a wake-up call to us,” Sharon says.
“We need to listen to the youth and young adults who are in our church and hear what they’re saying to us about what kind of new and renewing faith communities we need.”
The survey showed a gender imbalance in the pews with almost two thirds. 66 per cent, of attendees women.
Baptisms and funerals were the most common services outside of worship.
Those leading worship and other activities were often not ordained, with 40 per cent of these activities overseen by lay preachers or pastors.
Heather Ackland, who is Project Manager for Congregational Business Services in the Mission Resourcing Unit, said the survey helps to understand the ways in which local congregations serve the community and assist church leaders adapt and produce the most useful resources.
“We will be able to delve deeper and understand our church more if more congregations complete this year’s Community Life Return,” she said.
The 2018 Community Life Return has been sent out. The deadline to return completed surveys is 30 June. For more information call Heather Ackland on (03) 9251 5236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.