Dirty numbers and the British Unitarians

I’m about to wade into deep water. I mean no offense, nor do I plan to come off as a pushy American. But I’m thinking about the stated executive goal of the British Unitarians to grow by 20% in five years. I found their 2010 (current) annual report, which for the first time has membership statistics.

The numbers, to me, say do or die. (The following calculations, while accurate, are naive of statistical analysis and independent confirmation; thus the title.)

The 163 member churches in England, Scotland and Wales have a aggregate membership of  3,672. The largest church is Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, London with 168 members. But the second largest is Dean Row Chapel, Wilmslow, with 80. Sixty-one congregations have 10 members or fewer.

What would it take to get to 4,406, a twenty-percent increase? Well . . .

  • if each congregation currently with 60 members or more made a net increase of 5% per year, each year, and
  • if each congregation currently from 20 to 59 members made a net increase of 2 members per year, each year, and
  • if each congregation currently under 20 members made a net increase of 1 member per year . . .

the General Assembly would increase by 34% after five years.

But hitting stasis would be a laudable and difficult goal for some. As I’ve said in the United States setting, this plan calls for new congregations and an examination of where they’re missing.

But you can run the numbers yourself with this comma-separated values spreadsheet sorted by home country, city, congregational name (where needed) and membership.

Published by

Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

6 thoughts on “Dirty numbers and the British Unitarians”

  1. You’re leaving out the multicultural piece too. The UU Minister plan calls for quantifiable efforts in multicultural activities for intern ministers. The impression is those would be the only kinds of interns to get any funding. What that means and where that happens and how that measured an interesting questions.

  2. PS I liked to quantify targets but I think your on the right track about targeting where new Churches should be rather than gross increases in members. If I get your drift here.

  3. You get the drift. Basically a revisit of the U.S. data project, but the first step is getting a parallel level of granularity. I think I’ve got it, but this isn’t the best week for it.

  4. I have a feeling UUs aren’t ones for quantifying much of anything… I’ve been waiting to see if there are any more comments to this but I have a feeling putting numbers to a task and goal doesn’t turn UUs on much.. maybe I’m wrong.

  5. I’m visiting my sister in Liverpool this weekend, and will get to experience British Unitarianism again after a hiatus of years (I’ve attended the Cambridge and York congregations in the past, and am glad to see they’re still present).

    A bit surprising that membership numbers are not available until now — Stephen Lingwood pointed out that GAUFCC started their growth campaign 5 years ago!

  6. No offence taken. I think this is a very useful analysis.

    For my congregation: (53 members, about to become 56 in a couple of weeks when we welcome new members) I’d be happy to aim for an increase of two members per year. But when the majority of my congregation are over 70 I know that I’m going to be fighting against the demoraphics for a while yet.

    This leads me to think that things are going to get worst, maybe a lot worse, before they get better. Like the Decade of Evangelism in the Church of England, which did not increase numbers but became a decade of learning about evangelism, I think this next five years might be an educational opportunity. By the end of it, I seriously doubt we will have grown but we will have learnt what does and doesn’t work, and we will have found the urgency to take this work seriously.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *