CofE spending millions on converting children, report reveals

Posted: Fri, 7th Jun 2024

Schools and colleges targeted in drive to double number of children and young people in Church.

World Religions Photo Library / Alamy Stock Photo

The Church of England is spending millions of pounds on activities aimed at converting children to Christianity, figures show.

The recently published 2023 Annual Report for the Church Commissioners for England, the charity which administers the CofE's funds, reveals the commissioners allocated £38 million to projects under its "Diocesan Investment Programme". Most projects under the programme, which aims to "develop mission", include evangelising to children and young people.

Last year the Church said it aims to "double the number of children and young people who are active Christian disciples by 2030".

The Church, which is embroiled in safeguarding scandals, has seen a dramatic decrease in membership, particularly among young people. The 2019 British Social Attitudes survey found just one per cent of 18-24 year olds in Britain belong to the CofE. Around 1% of adults in England regularly attend CofE services.

In January, the National Churches Trust said the government should ringfence "at least £50 million" a year to repair churches. The National Secular Society has argued the public should not be expected to maintain church buildings while the CofE spends millions on evangelism.

Schools and colleges targeted in evangelism drive

The projects awarded funding under the Diocesan Investment Programme include £3.3m to Guildford diocese for the "first phase" of its nine-year "Youth Catalyst" project, which aims to place youth ministers in local schools. In October, a nonreligious school targeted by the diocese declined to take part after the NSS raised concerns.

Another project targeting schools is a church plant scheme on the Isle of Wight, to grow a local church congregation from 30 to "to a younger more diverse congregation of over 300 people, including families, younger adults, and children, with an increase from no children to 80 children plus 30 young people." The project, awarded £1.2m, will include creating "new Christian communities in seven schools".

Worcester and Canterbury dioceses have been awarded £1m and £0.6m respectively for projects which aim to "double the number of children" and young people in the Church.

Other projects include:

  • £2.8m to Manchester diocese for its "Children Changing Places" project, which aims "reach more schools, children, young people and their families". This includes "developing worship for children aged 5+" and "growing discipleship opportunities for young people in school years 9-13".
  • £2.7m to Durham diocese to support engagement of 16-25-year-olds through "funding mission chaplaincy in three further education colleges".
  • £1.5m to London diocese to support its "Growing Younger" strategy, which "seeks to engage with over 3,000 children and young people, of whom over 900 will choose to engage with faith-related activities and 230 will engage in active discipleship or leadership roles".

The commissioners also allocated £660,000 to three projects under its "People and Partnership Funding", all of which involve evangelism to children and young people.

NSS: Church's school evangelism "must be resisted"

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "The Church's fixation on converting children is cause for concern.

"The Church's privileged position in education, and the legal requirement on school to provide collective worship, mean the CofE is well-placed to exploit our schools to support its aim of doubling its child recruits. And we know from previous cases that it will try to use our state schools, including those without a religious character, as mission fields.

"Attempts by the Church to impose itself on our children through education or other aspects of public life must be resisted. Certainly, the public should not be expected to supplement its evangelical initiatives by paying for church maintenance which the CofE could fund instead.

"The Church's desperate efforts to convert children are a symptom of its rapid decline in membership. An increasingly unsustainable institution is increasingly unjustifiable as the established Church. Separation of Church and state is long overdue."

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Tags: Collective worship, Disestablishment, School evangelism