By Ann Marie Foley - 21 February, 2019
More than half (58 per cent) of evangelical churches in Ireland are growing, and while 11 per cent have reported a decline in numbers, almost all (88 per cent) expect to see further growth during the next five years.
These evangelical churches report a good ethnic mix and a young age profile, with 46 per cent of members aged under 30, and 75 per cent aged under 50.
This is according to research carried out on behalf of Evangelical Alliance Ireland (EAI). This recently published survey and research – Growing & Vibrant – revealed that there are more than 500 active evangelical congregations in the Republic of Ireland outside of the four main denominations – Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian.
“All in all, this encouraging report is in striking contrast with popular misconceptions of Christianity in Ireland as being irrelevant or declining,” said Nick Park, Executive Director, EAI.
He likened the experiences of Irish churches to the worldwide trend towards secularisation, where religious involvement can no longer be taken for granted as part of popular culture or upheld by State institutions.
“That provides a fertile environment for different expressions of faith that combine personal commitment with a sense of community,” he stated.
Other findings of the survey were that 56.78 per cent of evangelical church members are under the age of 15. In terms of ethnicity, again more than half (56.41 per cent) described themselves as “ethnically mixed” and 18.80 per cent as predominantly African. Some 21.37 per cent described themselves as predominantly Irish.
“The congregations of these churches were, by and large, as diverse as Irish society,” stated the report. “Churches were requested to have regard to the country of origin of members, rather than current citizenship, when answering this question.”
The average size of churches was in the 41 to 60 person bracket, with 75.22 per cent having fewer than 100 members. The report also found that apart from attending Sunday services, a high proportion of members participate in other gatherings during the week. Churches reported an average of five different weekly events. Churches surveyed also reported a strong emphasis on working in their local community.
“Taken in its entirety the survey paints a picture of a very active and growing church which is appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds,” stated the report.
The majority of the churches (56.78 per cent) are in existence for less than 15 years. Over half of respondents identified as non-denominational or independent and the next largest church denomination was the Redeemed Christian Church of God (23.85 per cent), followed by Baptist (9 per cent) and Assemblies of God (now called Christian Churches Ireland) with 8 per cent.