Great Britain: Baptists Lose 30.000 Children within a Two-Year Period
D i d c o t / E l s t a l – The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) has lost more than 30.000 children below the age of 12 in the last two years, while the German Baptist Union has lost 2.800 kids within that period.
According to the Didcot-based “Baptist Times”, experts are now exploring the causes for this development in Great Britain. Pastor Nick Lear, the church’s mission advisor, labels the matter “a staggering drop”. During the 1990’s the church always had contact with roughly 100.000 children, but that number has now dropped to 65.000. These are figures from the annual statistics which church offices in Didcot gather through surveying the approximately 2.000 congregations. Lear assured that the church’s Mission Department will now be starting a larger investigation into the causes behind the downturn. This development is particularly disconcerting in view of the fact that adult Baptist attendance and baptisms during this period have increased. In 1998 the attendance numbers had been running at 137.000, by 2003 they had risen to 164.000, an increase of 21%. Baptisms during this period grew nearly a thousand from 3.854 to 4.844 (26%).
Baptists practice believers’ baptism; children are therefore not listed as members in official statistics. In the Anglican church, according to Lear, the number of children remained constant during this period. But the Methodists experienced a decline of 18%. Lear states that his church has in recent times paid too little attention to children: “We’ve tended to focus on adults and young people in our mission.” Here we must learn from Jesus, who made children a priority. “I believe that children need as much opportunity to meet Jesus as adults, not just because they are the church of the future, but because without children, the body of the church is diminished.” The BUGB has roughly 138.000 members.
Baptist children’s work in Germany has apparently also dropped as revealed when comparing the statistics of church offices in Elstal of 2002 with those of 2004. The number of children’s groups has decreased by 23% to 1.533; the number of children by 15% to roughly 16.000. In conversation with the European Baptist Press Service (EBPS), the German federation’s Youth Pastor, Christoph Haus (Elstal), attributed this to demographic trends in Germany as well as to conservative survey methods. Recent programmes for missionary work among children such as “Promise Land”, which was developed by the Willow Creek congregation near Chicago, are not included. “Children’s work is booming in many of our federation’s congregations,” he assured. Yet other congregations have no programme whatsoever for children. Germany’s Union of Evangelical Free Churches has approximately 85.000 members.