The incoming moderator of the Church of Scotland today admitted the Kirk has not been attractive enough to encourage would-be worshippers through its doors.

Rev David Lunan made the comments as figures show Church of Scotland membership has slumped below 500,000 to a new low.

Mr Lunan, who said he was not too despondent about the statistics, partly blamed society's materialism and pointed to a lack of children attending Sunday school.

But he conceded: "I think we have not probably been as attractive as we might have been. I think there's a lot of 'same old, same old' goes on."

The figures will be presented at the Kirk's General Assembly which begins next week in Edinburgh.

A report by the Church's legal questions committee shows that there were 489,118 communicants (members) last year, down from 504,363 in 2006 and 520,940 in 2005.

The number of new members joining each year has dropped by nearly 80% since 1981.

Mr Lunan, 63, who formerly held the post of clerk to the presbytery of Glasgow, is expected to take over from the current moderator of the Assembly - Rev Sheilagh Kesting - when it gets under way.

Asked to explain the drop in membership, he said the average age of church-goers was a factor he had noticed when visiting congregations.

Speaking at a news conference in Edinburgh, he said: "You are left with impression that most people who go to church no longer have their hair colour.

"The age profile of congregations would be, I think, over 50, maybe even over 60. And the average age of the congregation I served last in the centre of Glasgow was over 70.

"Most of our worshippers I'm seeing in the west of Scotland are elderly and, of course, the numbers have dropped.

"We used to worry about there not being young people around and that's still an issue. I'm concerned that we don't have children around. There are not the children in the way that I remember as I grew up.

"Even in churches that are doing not too badly there are not large Sunday schools."

He added that "external influences", such as the variety of things people can do on a Sunday morning, meant the Kirk was not attracting as many people as before.

"You have to be fairly committed to want to be in church, because there are other options," he said.

Mr Lunan added that people were often "shielded" from asking the deeper questions of life in our modern society.

He added: "Because people are cocooned in many ways by our material benefits they're maybe not asking some of the more searching questions until later."

But on the membership figures, he insisted: "I'm not unduly despondent about that. The Church has gone through worse times than this before."

He pointed to the "imaginative" work being done in deprived areas across Scotland, as well as to the dedication of current members.

Principal clerk to the General Assembly, the Very Rev Finlay Macdonald, pointed to figures in the same report which show that over 75,000 children are involved in congregations, while a further 19,400 adults go to church but are not on the official roll.

"You can add almost another 100,000 with children and folk who attend church but who aren't registered as members," he said.

"Compared with 30 or 40 years ago, the numbers are still down but it's not as gloomy as is sometimes made out. There are a lot of good things going on."

He also pointed out that 2.1 million people identified as being Church of Scotland in the last census.

Mr Lunan was born in London and raised in Cambuslang.

The father-of-four was ordained in 1970 and worked for 12 years in Moray before being called to Renfield St Stephen's Church in Glasgow.

He developed a keen interest in charity work and went on to become clerk to the presbytery of Glasgow in 2002.

Today, he pledged to make "prayer and money" the themes for his year as moderator.

Explaining the latter, he said: "We live in a money culture - almost every decision is taken on the basis of money.

"It undermines all the other values that not only we in the Church, but the whole of society should be addressing.

"Having developed an interest in what's happening in poorer countries throughout the world, you realise that money's at the heart of the problem there.

"We in the West have decided the terms of trade which ensure that half the world starves, This cannot be right."

Mr Lunan will formally take over the honorary role on Thursday May 15, subject to the Assembly's approval.

The annual gathering will run until May 21.