CofE launches new school evangelism network

Posted: Wed, 3rd Jul 2024

Network of 40 "worshipping communities" will target schools and colleges, including nonreligious community schools.

World Religions Photo Library / Alamy Stock Photo

The National Secular Society has branded a new Church of England evangelism initiative as "a cynical move to use our schools to ease its plummeting membership".

The CofE yesterday announced the launch of its "FLOURISH" network targeting schools and colleges – including community schools.

The network comprises 40 "worshipping communities" which will "establish partnerships between schools or Further Education (FE) colleges and their local churches" to "engage a large number of children, young people, and their families".

It said that while many pilot locations are in Church of England schools, the initiative also includes "community (non-CofE) schools, Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), and FE colleges". Over half are in communities with "above-average disadvantage metrics" and a "significant proportion" are in "highly diverse" areas.

The CofE said FLOURISH will further the Church's vision of "becoming younger and more diverse".

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.

Evangelism drive could spread to "potentially hundreds of other locations"

The initial two year pilot programme will target schools and colleges across 12 dioceses: Bath & Wells, Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Derby, Lichfield, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Salisbury, Southwark, Southwell & Nottingham, and Truro.

The pilot phase, which begins this autumn, will involve "training and development" for 200 "adult leaders" and 800 "young leaders".

The "worshipping communities" will be based on five "core principles" including "worship that is fully integrated into the regular rhythms, practices, structures and resources of the school/college's vision" and "intergenerational faith development experiences involving children and their families of all ages".

The pilot will inform the "potential expansion of this vision" to "potentially hundreds of other locations in the coming years".

NSS: "Government shouldn't allow state funded schools to be exploited by the Church"

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "As much as the Church may wish it, our state schools are not there to serve the interests of the CofE. They're there to educate our children.

"This new initiative is a cynical move to use our schools to ease its plummeting membership.

"The Government shouldn't allow state funded schools to be exploited by the Church of England to help it achieve its goal of doubling the number of 'young active disciples' by 2030."

Media coverage:
Salisbury schools 'targeted' in Church evangelism drive (Salisbury Journal)

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