New In Your Hymnal, AULD LANG SYNE

The annual yearbook of church membership in the Unitied States was just published. Overall, church membership is down about one percent.

Catholic membership rose by about one percent.  Pentacostal, Seventh Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness went up about two percent.  Southern Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ went down about two percent.    

The population of the U. S. goes up something like one percent a year.  So, the drop in the percentage of the U. S. population that belongs to churches is about two percent. 

These numbers have been about the same for several years.  This trend for ten years would reduce the percentage of the U. S. that belongs to churches by twenty percent.

If the denominations that showed growth have more children, and the children are considered members, some of their growth may be due to this.  Also, the hispanic population is the fastest growing ethnic group. Denomiations that they prefer, Catholic and pentacostal, may benefit.

This steady drop in church membership has many implications, like property tax exemptions of church property.  This exists because of the political popularity of churches.  If this popularity falls, churches will have to collect more from their members.

Other reports I have read say the average age of church members is rising, signaling lack of interest by the young.  The same trend started in Europe before it started here and has never reversed.  

But, the future is not always like the past. We don’t know what the future will bring.

12 Responses

  1. Brad Campbell

    Church participation is steadily declining….cannot argue with that. But still over 90% of the population still believes in God.

    Property tax exemptions for religious entities…..I have no problem with that. Here is a “novel” way for any state to increase their revenue or decrease their budget deficit……make their public employees pay their “share” just like the rest of us. Public employees can pay for their: medical insurance….just like I do, retirement and pension…..just like I do, work on holidays…..just like I do.

      1. Brad Campbell

        Yes, public employees should be paid a fair wage but unions are way too greedy, IMO.

        Look at France. Their gov wanted to increase the work week from 35 to 38 hrs/week….(I think)…..and the people about had a revolution. 35 hrs/week…..that is nothing to the small business owner….LOL. Plus they basically get the whole month of August off….

        Our federal gov, many states, local governments are in dire straights financially. We need elected officials to make some tough decisions about our financially crisis. Spending needs to be “reigned in” along with some cuts.

        Like I have mentioned before in another blog on here; if I ran my business like our elected reps run our gov (federal-state-local), it would have gone bankrupt long ago. But we as citizens keep electing the same kind of people (both parties). Now with oil climbing higher, our economy is going to take another hit this summer…IMO.


  2. Don’t now how we got here from there but as long as we’re talking about this. Public sector employees in Wisconsin are not paid any better than their private sector counterparts.

    The Union agreed to ALL of the monetary concessions the governor was asking for and yet we have no deal. What does that tell you? The Union isn’t dictating anything, the governor is.

    It’s Wisconsin. They’ve got an Eau Claire and a Fond du lac but it’s not France.

    If you’re worried about oil prices, use less of it.

    1. PK

      It’s hard to use less when you have a service based small business. It’s just not possible to use a “fuel efficient” vehicle when you’re a contractor. Fuel prices effect the price of everything, so even if you could use less, the trucks delivering food to the grocery store aren’t.

    2. Brad Campbell


      Use less oil? Interesting idea but we have internal combustion engines….hard not to use it. In my business, I need larger diesel trucks….wow, where are the hybrid larger trucks…….probably never will be one.

      The Wis workers have not agreed to all concessions. They still want the ‘collective bargaining rights’….which is only used for scare tactics. Good for the Wis gov.

      By the way…fed/state workers do have a better salary/benefit package compared to their private worker counterparts.

      I’m self employed and would love to have someone else pay for my: health insurance-dental insurance-pension-paid holidays…..

  3. Wanna B Sure

    Jon; on the surface, your comments sound correct, but there are many factors that also need to be taken into consideration to have an accurate picture . There are some church groups that don’t keep accurate current membership numbers, and then there are some that do a better job of it. My particular denomination regularly goes through the membership, and review attendance at service. This is beneficial for several reasons. 1. It reveals a possible mis-understanding, and those people are visited to clear this up, and to encourage re-attendance. This does help. 2. To discover if someone has moved away, and where they can be reached. They are then contacted as to where an affiliate church is located closer to their current location. It does them no spiritual good to be members here, and the result is, if not in membership there, it is too easy not to go and worship. The Pastor in their new community is informed and invited, and encouraged to attend divine worship there. And this does work. 3. Another reason (and this is purely for economic reasons), is that in our Synod, for every member, there is a SUGGESTED per capita dollar contribution sent to synodical office in support of synodical programs/missions, etc. These are suggestions only, and it is up to the individual congregation to determine the amount sent in. Nothing is demanded. The result is each congregation isn’ burdened with the responsibility of synodical support of inactive, or absent members. Another situation that is more obvious especially in the rural areas in relation to your comment of “getting older ” in the membership; Yes, especially in the rural areas, membership is getting older. You have mentioned zero sum gain in another post, and this applies also to this membership, thanks to the birth controll pill, especially in relation to northern Europeans. Another consideration is that in this county where I live, we have lost over half of our population, due to economy, and larger farming practices. Our own family is another example of the change. We had two children. We sent them to college. They got jobs (very good ones) in the “big town”. that’s where they are along with our grandchildren. Both of our children are in regular attendance, along with the grandchildren. Both of their churches,( same Synod they have grown up in.) have had large building expansion programs. to accomodate the new membership transferred from the “feeder churches” (new term). About four years ago, when our pastor retired, we were in a call situation. The District President,(Bishop in some circles) was in attendance for a pre-call meeting. (to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, etc). He asked where we thought our congregation would be in 25 years. I said “in Fargo.” He asked what I meant, and I told him for the reasons mentioned above. When we go to a children’s church program, or public school function, we have to now go to Fargo. That is where our future members are going. There is unfortunately an opportunity for our children after they leave the nest, to become lax, and lazy (so to speak) with their spiritual practices. I have seen on many occasions, however, eventually, as they mature, that more active attendance does return. I wouldn’t say that they actually lost their faith, but the light does sometime get more dim. This is when they become more vulnerable to the likes of you Jon. It has also been an accurate observation that after being exposed to the non/anti-theism in college, Their faith has been questioned, along with the Liberal political tendencies espoused by professors at those same colleges. I wouldn’t say this is all bad, as when they mature, their spirituality is stronger than what it was before. So, you see, a general statement does not reveal all the facts to be considered. Your post reveals a general salivation of the prospect of the falling away from the faith they were brought in, and at their most vulnerable time in life.

    1. Wanna 3:55 Interesting observations about your personal church experience. Your implication is that professors attract students away from the faith. It is may belief that if you polled all the professors at NDSU, the majority, maybe 75%, are church-going Republicans. But, it is true that nationwide, skepticism of the faith increases with more college degrees. We can all speculate on why. Is it because professors “messed with their minds” by trying to plant seeds of doubt? That is an easy explanation. But, like your explanation of falling church membership, the real answer seems more complicated. When students are presented with contemporary well reasoned factual information, perhaps they are drawn away from mythological ideas written a couple of thousand years ago. My point in writing about the falling church membership is in part to suggest churches began to contemplate what the problem might be. To say, let’s not change anything, just shout the old stuff louder doesn’t seem to me to be a solution.

  4. PK

    When you say “well reasoned factual information” you’re referring to theories. Theories that have not been proven like the First Law of Thermodynamics has been. But they’re presented as fact. Like Tyler mentioned in a previous comment, much of science has been modeled around Scientific Materialism and Naturalism. It is true young influential minds are drawn away from scripture based on these “facts”, but perhaps that’s by design.

  5. Brad Campbell

    Wanna B Sure:

    Thanks for the post. Very interesting story on your ‘church experience’. My path seems to parallel your children’s to some degree. My church attendance did fall off as I attended college. But as my family grew so did my church attendance.

    You are right about small town church’s falling attendance. The biggest reason is the young people moving away to larger cities for work. Same thing here in my nw MN town… go to college and do not come back to live….hard not having “falling attendance” when those young people move away. My sister lives in WFargo and her church is growing by leaps and bounds…..

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