More children going to church but overall numbers not back to pre-pandemic level

The number of people attending Church of England services has risen for the third year in a row, but is still not back to pre-pandemic levels, according to new figures.

Children’s attendance in 2023 was up by almost 6%, according to what the Church described as an early snapshot of the annual Statistics for Mission findings.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the figures were “very welcome”, adding that he is “especially heartened” to hear of more children going to church.

Overall average weekly attendance at Church of England services rose by almost 5% last year to 685,000 from 654,000 in 2022.

The number of children attending weekly increased from 87,000 in 2022 to 92,000 in 2023.

Total all-age attendance remains below the 2019 figure of 854,000.

This fell to 345,000 people in 2020 – the year of the pandemic.

The Church said its analysis suggests in-person attendance is moving closer to the pre-pandemic trend.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was heartened to see more children attending church (Gareth Fuller/PA)
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was heartened to see more children attending church (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Mr Welby said “This is very welcome news and I hope it encourages churches across the country. I want to thank our clergy and congregations who have shown such faith, hope and confidence over recent years to share the gospel with their communities.

“I’m especially heartened to hear that more children are coming along to church and I’m grateful to everyone involved in that ministry.

“These are just one set of figures, but they show without doubt that people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ here and now – and realising it’s the best decision they could ever make.”

Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said it was the “first time in a long time we have seen noticeable growth” in attendance figures.

He added: “Of course we don’t yet know whether this growth is a trend but I take it as a great encouragement that our focus on reaching more people with the good news of Jesus, establishing new Christian communities, wherever they are, revitalising our parishes, and seeking to become a younger and more diverse church, making everyone feel welcome, is beginning to make a difference

The full Statistics for Mission report is due to be published in the autumn.