The 2021 Australian Census revealed a marked decline in Anglican affiliation in the national population, from 3.1 million in 2016 to 2.5 million in 2021. This was the largest drop in number of all religious denominations. The census also revealed the average age of an Anglican in Australia was 56 (verses the average of 47 for all Christian denominations). These statistics brutally illustrate the challenge the Anglican church is facing. If we don’t revitalise existing churches as well as plant new churches, we will have an ever-diminishing presence in our community, with a consequent diminished capacity to engage in our mission of proclaiming the gospel and equipping believers to grow in faith and in service. I know from personal experience some of the challenges church leaders face when endeavouring to revitalise their church: overstretched volunteers, budget limits, uncertainty as to which program or strategy to adopt, and ever-increasing administrative and compliance demands on clergy and lay leaders. Despite these obstacles, God is at work renewing his church, and this edition of Essentials brings together wisdom and experience from around Australia to reflect on church revitalisation.
We hear from Bishop Stephen Hale about ‘The Great Collapse’ – the impending closure of numerous unviable churches across Australia, with some straight-forward suggestions for diocesan action. Rod Morris, a Church Revitalisation Consultant with City to City Australia, shares his learnings from the first year in that role. We read an encouraging case study of church renewal from Tasmania where the parish of Circular Head, led by Joel Nankervis, has gone from 20 regulars to over 70 regular weekly attenders in six years. Brian Holden shares reflections from a group of youth leaders following their road trip to learn from Queensland churches with vibrant youth and children’s ministries. Evan Englezos interviews Jackson King (Robina Anglican Church) to discover how digital technologies enable revitalisation and can expand our ministry reach. Tim Johnson shares a Bible study on Ephesians 2:21-22, highlighting how Paul’s description of the church as temple speaks to our identity, God’s presence and God’s purposes in us. I review a number of books related to church revitalisation – one concerning vision, another on prayer, another that provides an evaluation of which strategies have been most effective in the UK, and a few classic approaches (NCLS, NCD and Mission-Minded). Finally, Graham Stanton recommends two books to strengthen youth and children’s ministry. May you find this edition fruitful reading!