Paul Walker attended the 2015 Faith in Research Conference in Birmingham on May 14th. Here he shares some of the key points of the day
Along with around 90 people, I took part in this annual gathering of those invovled in research and statistics in the Church of England. Participants were drawn from most dioceses, as well as staff from the Archbishops Council and other agencies. I was the sole representative of the Diocese of West Yorkshire and The Dales.
The first keynote speaker was Professor Doctor Leslie Francis from Warwick University, and a noted author on church trends, who spoke on 'Personality Types and the Church'. This address explored the relationship between the psychological type of the leader and church growth. The second main speaker was Sarah Barter-Godfrey from the Research and Statistics unit at Church House, who opened up the intial findings of the 'Everybody Counts' survey of 2014.
Most of the rest of the day was taken up with a series of shorter optional seminars. These looked at topics such as the use of Twitter; young vocatations; rural mission and church-based social action. A particularly interesting session was Sandra Millar, again from the central Archbishops Council, speaking on recent research into the value of occasional offices in church growth thinking.
Not all of this day was focussed on church growth - it was a more general conference on research and statistics. As a result I tried to pick the seminars that seemed most relevant to church growth. However, all of the input was stimulating and - in a few cases - postively mind-bending!
Rather than try to regurgitate my jumbled mass of notes that I made on the day, if you are interested to learn more then I would encourage you to have a read of this blog post, which summarises the input better than I could.
This event, which was expertly chaired by David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester, was an extremely worthwhile day. As we plan and strategise for growth in our diocese, it is important to be able to rely on evidence - rather than simply anecdote - for our planning. The Faith in Research project is a good resource in that aim, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to attend on behalf of the diocese.