Three polls conducted since 2000by Focus on the Family Canada, Time Canada, and the Vanier Institute of the Familyshow weekly church attendance going up in Canada for the first time in a generation. Research shows weekly attendance at a religious service, which was down to 20 percent a few years ago, is up to 25 percent. Monthly attendance is as high as 37 percent.
"That's the highest level for monthly attendance since the early 1980s," said sociologist Reg Bibby, who has been tracking Canadian church attendance for 30 years. "My sense is that something intriguing is happening. I feel that all the more because I genuinely didn't expect it."
A strong emphasis on ministry to children, youth, and immigrants accounts for a large part of the growth. "We have been very aggressive in reaching new Canadians," said Franklin Pyles, president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada. The fastest-growing Alliance churches are Chinese, especially among newly arrived Chinese Christians evangelizing their own people.
In the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, where the growth rate is about 2.5 percent a year, "We are reaping some of the benefit of immigration to Canada," said David Hazzard, assistant superintendent for ministerial services. "Many people coming in are Pentecostal people." But Hazzard isn't impressed with the rate of increase. "In the last 10 years, we would barely have kept up with the population growth," he said.
Pockets of the Anglican Church and the United Church of Canada are also seeing increased attendance. Christopher White, who pastors a suburban United church near Toronto, says his congregation is growing by a household a week. "We've worked very hard to meet people's spiritual and social needs in the context of the church," he said. That means everything from reaching out to the homeless and hosting fitness classes to offering courses in "Christianity 101."
Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Many of the statistics in this article come from Reginald Bibby's Restless Churches: How Canada's Churches Can Contribute to the Emerging Religious Renaissance. It is available from Amazon.com and other book retailers.
Other stats come from Statistics Canada.
More news and information about evangelicals in Canada is available from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Focus on the Family Canada offers movie reviews, email publications, and events in Canada.
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