Parish returns

Everything you need to know about parish returns for mission and finance

Why they matter

Every year your church is asked to complete returns about membership, attendance, church finances and energy footprint. It is not uncommon for me to hear churchwardens or treasurers say, ‘We send all this information, but what benefit do we receive?’ 

Here’s how completing the Returns for Mission and Finance benefits every level of the life of the Church - local, deanery, diocese and national.

The diocesan and national perspective

The mission and finance statistics paint a picture of our common life across the country and helps identify trends and spot mission opportunities. They make it possible to plan in terms of clergy deployment. The financial figures indicate the church’s finances at the grassroots.

One practical example is where this information has helped us lobby the government, but this is only possible if we have an accurate picture of the pressures at the local level. As a diocese, the returns from parishes are vital for planning for our shared mission and ministry and robust data is essential if our Bishop’s Council and deaneries are to make good decisions about how the church uses its resources.

The data gathered in the Energy Footprint Tool is used nationally to establish the Church's carbon baseline and monitor progress, locally it can be used so that you can track the impact of the steps you are taking to reduce your own church's emissions and at a diocesan level it helps us to:

  • Spot churches which have issues with thier heating systems
  • identify which churches would particularly benefi tfrom an energy audit
  • Discover examples of good practice to share
The local perspective - what’s in it for us?

Have you seen your benefice or parish dashboard? Every year, the national team take your data and produce these dashboards for mission and finance which are there to help you answer important questions about your parish or benefice: who lives here, who comes to church and who are we missing or not meeting?

The dashboard gives an important snapshot and so can inform your mission and outreach opportunities. This enables church growth.

How to submit your Parish Return

Wherever possible, please complete your return online using the National Church’s Online Parish Returns System.

Where do I go for help if I’m stuck?

Please don’t give up! If you’re new to this, need login assistance or have general queries please contact the Diocesan Parish Returns Team either by email or call 01865 208 200.

If you encounter technical issues with the website you can also contact the National Church's Statistics Unit via email and they will be able to assist with these problems.

When is the information required?

Statistics for mission return
  • 2021

    The 2021 Statistics for Mission Return online form is now open for submissions. Please note the deadline for submitting your completed mission return will be 20 March 2022.

    We appreciate that for some of our smaller churches, it is easier to complete and submit a paper form. Paper copies should be returned to the Diocese, marked FAO the Department for Mission and Ministry, to our Church House Oxford address in Kidlington.

    Alternatively electronic copies can be sent to us via email to: parishreturns@oxford.anglican.org.

Parish finance return
  • 2021

    The deadline for submitting your 2021 Parish Finance Return was 28th June 2022.  You are now too late to submit the return online yourself, so please complete the blank pro forma below and send to statistics.unit@churchofengland.org where it will be entered on your behalf.

Energy footprint tool
  • 2021

    The deadline for submitting your 2021 Energy Footprint Tool was 31st July 2021.  You may still submit your data online and even though it will not be used in any national reporting this year, we can still use it as a diocese.

Helpful documents

You can download the User Guide which explains how to use the Online Parish Returns system. You may also find it helpful to complete either a PDF or Excel version of the Returns form before you enter the information online.

These forms are below and each form includes helpful notes which outline exactly what data is required.

FAQs
 

When can we enter our mission data?
You are able enter data in the online returns as often as you wish. We therefore strongly recommend that churches complete their data as they go during the year – Easter attendance, Electoral Roll, October count and finally Advent/Christmas.
The deadline for full completing and submission is generally 31 January of the next year. This year the deadline has been extended to 20 March 2022.
Do we have to answer all the questions?
All of the questions are being asked for a specific and important reason. However, we also recognise that some of the data being requested is not always collected by churches or felt to be very difficult to assess.
This query often relates specifically to Field 9 – How has your worshipping community changed? If you feel unable to complete this field, please leave it blank and move on to the next question.
What if we don't have the information being requested?
The online system allows users the option of entering “unknown” and we recommend you enter this rather than leave a cell blank as that will allow for a 100% submission. Please do not insert a 0 where the answer is unknown as that will reduce the value of the data.
Where do I go if I get stuck?
You can contact the Diocesan Parish Returns helpdesk by email or telephone. Ring 01865 208 200 and ask for help with your Parish Returns.
Are there different deadlines for Electoral Roll returns?
Yes. You are required to complete the Electoral Roll return by the end of May following APCMs. The online form for 2021 will be open after Easter for the entry of Electoral Roll figures.
What if we notice previous data entries are missing or incorrect?
If you have noticed that Statistics for Mission (attendance and participation) information for previous years is incorrect or missing for your church, it is quite straightforward to amend this information by completing a Statistics for Mission correction form.
If you wish to amend your church’s information for several years, please complete a separate form for each year.
We don't have anyone in our church who feels confident enough to complete this on-line. What can we do?
Option 1: Print off a paper copy of the form and complete it. Then telephone the Diocesan Parish Returns helpdesk on 01865 2082 00 and someone will help talk you through completing the form online.
Option 2: Print off a paper copy of the form and complete it. Then post it to Parish Returns, Dept of Mission and Ministry, Church House Oxford, Langford Locks, Kidlington, Oxford OX5 1GF
Can I just send in the PCC accounts?
For the Returns for Finance, churches are asked to use a standard format so that staff centrally can process the information more efficiently and at a lower cost.
The finance forms are designed to be consistent with the Charities Act 1993 and the PCC 3rd edition 2006. This return for National Church is in addition to your requirement to submit PCC accounts to the Diocese.
Is the information confidential?
The Church of England nationally treats the information submitted by parishes as confidential. Figures are only published on a diocesan basis and no other Diocese can access your data. In terms of Finance, any member of the public has the right to ask the PCC for a copy of its annual accounts.
Increasingly the Statistics for Mission data is accessed and used by the diocese, area bishops, archdeacons, area deans, lay chairs and deanery treasurers for mission and ministry planning.
I'm getting a 'Username and password do not match or you do not have an account yet' message
The error message you are seeing is displayed where there has been an attempt to login with a username and password that does not match any record held in the system. This can occur when either the username and/or password have been typed incorrectly or an account does not yet exist.
Experience has shown that this initially occurs where an attempt to login has been made using the Parish Code and Password supplied by the diocesan office, rather than after an account has been created.
See section 3 of the User Guide – Accessing the system for the first time – where you will note that you initially need to create an account for yourself, using the Parish Code and Password supplied by your diocesan office.
I want to put in the financial numbers and leave someone else to put in the other information. Is this possible?
Yes it is. See section 6 of the User Guide – entering information.
However if the other person does not currently have access to the system also see section 4 – setting up other users.
How do I register with an additional parish?
See section 2 – information for system administrators.
By way of the Users Menu tab, click on Add Parishes to Your Account and then enter the Parish Code and Password supplied by your diocesan office, before clicking Submit.
Where can I find out more regarding fresh expressions?
Where or how do I indicate if any of my attendance figures are unusual for any reason?
Indicate any unusual figures by using the free text box at the bottom of page 3 of the Statistics for Mission form, headed ‘Please use the box below to note whether there are any reasons for an unusual attendance on any of the Sundays in October, such as half term or Harvest.’
Where can I find the Help text?
See section 6 – entering information onto the online forms.
To summarise, 'Throughout the forms you will find symbols. If you click your pointer on the symbol qa ‘help box’ will appear to guide you.'

Understanding your Parish Dashboard

Guidance on using your parish dashboard and how to apply that information.


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