Friday, April 06, 2007

Church attendance rates by denomination, over time

(Part 4 in an 8 post series on Christian church attendance)

Just as the analyses in Part 3 looked at changes in attendance over time for all Christians, we can also do so separately for each of these three denominational groups.

As shown in the tables above, there has been a slight upswing in attendance rates among Evangelicals, fairly stable attendance among Mainline Protestants, and a fair decrease among Catholics. That is, members of Evangelical Churches are more likely to attend church services on a weekly basis now than 30 years ago. Not so for Catholics.

Next: Church attendance by gender


sarah said...

I'm surprised not to see a similar dip in the Mainline Protestant camp. It seems like I hear a lot about is "dying" Mainline churches. Perhaps more perception than reality?

Brad Wright said...

I believe that the attendance numbers for mainline churches are down.

This stat gets is more of a measure of commitment, i.e., if someone affiliates with a mainline church, how often do they go to church.

(This is different than how many people affliate with the church).

Jay Egenes said...

More interesting information. Thanks Brad.

If I read this right (beginning in the 70's):
Evangelical attendance rates (frequency of attendance) are up. Roman Catholic rates are down. Mainline protestant rates are pretty steady, but they're lower than Catholic or evangelical frequency of attendance.

Two thoughts come to mind:
1. What happens if we look back as far as the 50s, when some people think denominataional loyalties started seriously eroding? Do the trends look the same or are they more recent?

2. Does the lower rate of apparent commitment in the Mainline Protestant churches have to do with their ethnic roots (Lutheran churches were typically started by Germans or Scandinavians, Presbyterian churches by Scotts, Reformed churches by Dutch, Swiss, or German, Episcopalian churches by English, etc.) and a decline of ethnic identity among Americans from those countries and ethnic identities? If so, does this also relate to losses in membership?

3. Put another way, is commitment higher in congregations that still identify ethnically, with a membership made up of more recent immigrants, such as Korean Presbyterian and Reformed churches?

Jay Egenes said...

I know--that was three. LOL

Brad Wright said...

Good questions.. The data that I use here don't go back past the 1970s, so I can't use them to address the "earlier" question. My friend David Weakliem tells me that similar Gallop data go back further, so some day I might poke around with them.

As for why the relative differences... these graphs probably raise more questions than they answer. It certainly could be that the "types" on mainline churches are cancelling each other out.

Jay Egenes said...

Thanks Brad.

I'm not sure I understand your comment about "types" in mainlines churches.

Alan Rudy said...

I note that this is all about rates... so the analysis pertains to rates of attendance among those assigning themselves an identity subsequently parsed into your three categories.

I probably missed the post about numbers of folks placed in each category over time - which I need to know in order to understand the meaning of the rates of attendance.