I spent the weekend reading over two congregational studies. One is “Congregations in 21stCentury America”, published by Duke University. The other is “Twenty Years of Congregational Change: The 2020 Faith Communities Today Overview”, published by Faith Communities Today. In this blog post, I just want to share some of the highlights from each report. But first I would like to share some common survey results.
The pandemic has served as an accelerant of previous conditions in a congregation. If a congregation was doing well, they are doing even better. If a congregation was struggling before COVID, they are struggling even more now.
Mainline churches have suffered the worst decline of all denominations with a loss of -12.5% over the past 20 years. The PCUSA has lost 39% of its membership during this same period. Median attendance of all congregations in the USA is 65 members. In the presbytery of Chicagothe median attendance is 72.
There is also some good news in the reports. Faith Communities Today reported the following:
• Despite continued declines in attendance overall, about a third of congregations are growing and are spiritually vital.
• Congregations have continued to diversify, particularly in terms of racial composition.
• A dramatically increased utilization of technology can be seen over the past two decades, even pre-pandemic.
• The fiscal health of congregations has remained mostly steady.
The Duke University report highlights some positive trends as well:
• Religious diversity is steadily increasing.
• People in smaller congregations give more money to their churches than do people in larger congregations.
• Worship services have become more informal and expressive across all Christian traditions.
• There is increasing racial and ethnic diversity over time both among and within American congregations.
• Food assistance is by far the most common kind of social service activity pursued by congregations, with half (48%) of congregations that engage in social services listing food assistance among their four most important programs.
• Acceptance of female lay leadership is widespread, with 89% of congregations allowing women to serve on the governing board.
• Congregational acceptance of gays and lesbians as members and lay leaders has increased substantially in recent years.
There is so much to glean from these reports. Next week, I will share insights and how congregations in the Presbytery of Chicago fare when compared to the national average. Latest Church Surveys Part 1Latest Church Surveys Part 1
Rev. Craig M. Howard