Most Anglican churchgoers have a 'total lack of confidence' in speaking about faith 'at all and with anyone', according to a report for the Church of England's General Synod.
The report from the Church's Evangelism Task Group and Evangelism and Discipleship Team highlights research showing that while 70 per cent of churchgoers could think of someone they could invite to church, between 85 and 90 per cent of these said they had no intention of doing so.
'The problem was not the worshipper's local church but the main issue the research highlighted was a total lack of confidence in talking about faith at all and with anyone,' the report says.
However, it says, 'small behavioural changes' from the 1 million Anglican churchgoers could make a huge difference.
'If one additional person in 50 from our regular attenders invited someone to a church event and subsequently they started attending it would totally reverse our present decline. Nationally the church would grow by 16,000 people per year, offsetting the current net loss of 14,000,' the report argues.
It commends the 'Thy Kingdom Come' prayer initiative and calls for the development of a 'culture of invitation' across dioceses with a view to encouraging churchgoers to invite people to events. It also calls for 1,000 new evangelists to be engaged by 2025, saying: 'we believe having more evangelists in dioceses and local churches encourages more of the million to do their part in witnessing confidently in their lives'.
The report also identifies the need to prioritise children and young people for evangelism, noting that 65 per cent of churches have fewer than five children or young people under the age of 16 in church on Sunday. Thirty-six per cent have no under-16s at all.
It stresses the value of establishing new 'worshipping communities' and the need to train and equip church leaders in evangelism, saying: 'Most research suggests that if our leaders, both lay and ordained are not leading in sharing faith then it will not happen in their churches.'
It concludes: 'This is not a quickly fixed problem and will need the Church to keep this vision for evangelism at the centre of its life for many years.'