Membership has fallen by around 20 per cent in five years, from 413,000 in 2011 to 336,000 at the end of 2017. In the next five or six years there will be a shortfall of around 300 paid ministers with 75 per cent currently over the age of 50, the report says.
‘There are missing generations in congregations,’ it says in a stark assessment of the Kirk’s future. ‘Not only do we have very few children compared to 10 years ago, or similarly young people (under 25s), the number of folks in their 30s and 40s is also very small.
‘Given that the majority of those attending Church are over 60, these missing generations pose a real challenge to the very existence of the Church. We cannot afford to ignore this and fail to produce a plan to address it.’
The Church of Scotland is the country’s national church and operates on a parish system similar to that in the Church of England. However the report says ‘the present model of one Minister to one parish is no longer sustainable’ with the impending shortage both of ministers and funds to pay them.
The rapid decline means the Church is running at a deficit and has ‘more buildings than it needs or can sustain’.