Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fewer New Zealanders going to church

According to the census, more than half of New Zealanders consider themselves Christians. So why are so many churches struggling?

The Church is still a cornerstone for the faithful but it appears that for increasing numbers of Pakeha New Zealanders it's a relic from the past with regular church-going having fallen by half since the 1960s.

Massey University's Associate Professor Peter Lineham studies the trends and he says a large proportion of Pakeha New Zealanders are opting out of church.

However migrant Christians from the Pacific Islands, Asia and South Africa are filling many of the gaps in the country's churches.

"Sometime in the future the Presbyterian and the Methodist churches in New Zealand could be predominatly non-European or non-Pakeha," says Reverend Kevin Ward of Knox College.

Another contributing factor in the decline is the ageing of the mainstream churches' flock, with nearly 60% of their members over 60-years-old.

At the last census, Anglicans totalled around 555,000, that's down 5%. Catholics totalled 508,000, up nearly 5%. Presbyterians numbers are just over 400,000, down 7%.

"It's very clear who's faring best. The Catholics of the mainstream denominations are faring best," says Lineham.

However the Catholic Church is struggling to find new priests, and for all the churches upkeep is increasingly difficult.

Relative newcomers, the born again Pentecostal Christians are the fastest growing Christian group, although that growth is also slowing.

"I think it's very true to say that there is a real hunger for spiritual things in New Zealand today," says Phillip Godsiffe of Elim Cathedral of Hope.

Source: ONE News
Nov 24, 2008 7:54 PM