News & Events

Attendance at Free Church services increase

May 27, 2013

The number of people attending Free Church of Scotland services has increased over the past five years as it grows in Scotland’s major cities, the General Assembly heard last week.

Statistics showed that an average of 12,639 attended worship each week last year, up from 12,431 in 2007.

Although it is only a modest increase of 200, the news bucks the trend of nose-diving church attendance amidst the growing secularisation of Scotland.

The number of people under 30, when compared to 2007, had increased by almost 30 per cent.

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Above: This year’s Free Church youth conference held at Lendrick Muir

A Free Church of Scotland spokesman said: “The missing generation of the church in Scotland is often said to be the 20-50 year olds.

“The Free Church General Assembly has heard encouraging figures which seem to suggest that to a small degree the church is bucking the trend as 42 per cent of attenders are in the 30-59-year-old bracket and 14 per cent in the under 30 bracket.

“The number of people under 30 attending the Free Church has increased by almost 30 per cent in the past five years.

“It is also heartening that the Free Church is growing outwith its perceived heartland of the Western Isles, especially in the cities. The new church plants in Edinburgh and in Govan, Glasgow, are an indication of this.

“Another sign of the changing face of the church is the appointment of Rev Paul Clarke, an Anglican minister, to be the pastor of the congregation in St Andrews.”

When the 2012 figure was broken down into age categories, 14 per cent were under 30, 42 per cent from 30-59, and 44 per cent over 60.

The Presbytery of Edinburgh and Perth, which stretches from congregations in Aberdeen down to London, had the youngest demographic (24 per cent under 30) whilst the Western Isles Presbytery had the highest proportion of over 60s at 52 per cent. 

In another unusual trend, morning services were now the best attended in the church, with evening service figures showing a small dip.

Last week at the General Assembly it was said that this year’s list of Sunday School prize winners also showed a changing demographic in the Free Church.

Evan Macdonald, who is an elder at Glasgow City Free Church, told the General Assembly that gone were the days of the list being dominated by “Macleods, Campbells, MacDonalds and MacIvers”.

Mr Macdonald (pictured below) revealed the 2012/13 awards showed a “diversity of surnames”, and that it was “indicative of the snapshot of our church in diversifying in its people, surely that is a great thing, and we long to see greater diversity”.

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This year there was an increase of almost 25 per cent in Sunday School certificates, going up from 575 to 709 for the current session.

Mr Macdonald said the youth work of the Church would become increasingly important as society becomes increasingly secularised with young people lacking moral guidance.

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