Mainline church membership decline continues – but more slowly

Trends continue in church membership growth or decline, reports 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches

New York, February 14, 2011 — Growing churches continue to grow and declining churches continue to decline, according to the National Council of Ch urches’ 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

“The direction of membership (growth or decline) remains very stable,” writes the Yearbook’s editor, the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, in the newest edition released this week. “That is, churches which have been increasing in membership in recent years continue to grow and likewise, those churches which have been declining in recent years continue to decline.”

However, Lindner points out, “the rates of both growth and decline have generally slowed in comparison to recent years.” Copies of the 2011 Yearbook may be ordered for $55 each at www.yearbookofchurches.org.

The 79th annual edition of the Yearbook reports a continuing decline in membership of virtually all mainline denominations. And the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s second largest denomination and long a reliable generator of church growth, reported a decline in membership for the third year in a row, down .42 percent to 16,160,088 members.

The Catholic Church, the nation’s largest at 68.5 million members, reported a membership growth of .57 percent.

Membership figures reported in the 2011 Yearbook were collected by the churches in 2009 and reported to the Yearbook in 2010.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew 1.42 percent to 6,058, 907 members and the Assemblies of God grew .52 percent to 2,914,669 members , according to figures reported in the 2011 Yearbook.

Other churches that continued to post membership gains in 2010 are Jehovah’s Witnesses, up 4.37 percent to 1,162,686 members, and Church of God (Cleve land, Tenn.), up .38 percent to 1,076,254 members.

Four of the nation’s 25 largest churches are Pentecostal in belief and practice, Lindner reported. “Strong figures from the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) suggest an increase in the number of adherents to Pentecostal groups, though it is impossible to state unequivocally from this table since the other two charismatic churches in the ranking have not reported in some years.”

The four largest Pentecostal churches are the Church of God in Christ, Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.)

Mainline churches reporting declines in membership are United Church of Christ, down 2.83 percent to 1,080,199 members; the Presbyterian Church (USA), down 2.61 percent to 2,770,730 members; the Episcopal Church, down 2.48 percent to 2,006,343 members; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. down 1.96 percent to 4,542,868 members; the American Baptist Churches USA, down 1.55 percent to 1,310,505; the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), down 1.0 8 percent to 2,312,111 members; and the United Methodist Church, down 1.01 percent to 7,774,931 members.

However, ten of the 25 largest churches did not report updated figures: the Church of God in Christ; the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.; the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; Churches of Christ; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc.; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; and Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

The 2011 Yearbook includes part two of Lindner’s 2010 essay on “The New Immigrant Church,” this year focusing on policy and mission.

Church financial trends are also reported in the Yearbook. The financial reporting in the 2010 Yearbook is based on the financial income reports of the 64 churches reporting. The almost 45 million members of these churches contributed almost $36 billion, showing a decrease in the total income to the churches of $26 million.

The 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reports on 227 national church bodies. Statistics in the yearbook reflect “continued high overall church participation, and account for the religious affiliation of over 163 million Americans,” the editor reports.

The Yearbook also includes a directory of 235 U.S. local and regional ecumenical bodies with program and contact information and provides listings of theological seminaries and bible schools, religious periodicals and guid es to religious research including church archive listings.

Information in the Yearbook is kept up to date in two regular electronic updates each year. Access to this Internet data is provided through a unique pass code printed inside the back cover.

Total church membership reported in the 2011 Yearbook is 145,838,339 members, down 1.05 percent over 2010.

The top 25 churches reported in the 2010 Yearbook are in order of size:

  1. The Catholic Church, 68,503,456 members, up .57 percent.
  2. Southern Baptist Convention,16,160,088 members, down.42 percent.
  3. The United Methodist Church, 7,774,931 members, down1.01 percent.
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6,058,907 members, up 1 .42 percent.
  5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no membership updates reported.
  6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc, 5,000,000 members, no membership updates reported.
  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,542,868 members, down1.96 percent.
  8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
  9. Assemblies of God, 2,914,669 members, up .52 percent.
  10. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2,770,730 members, down 2.61 percent.
  11. African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
  12. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, 2,500,000 memb ers, no membership updates reported.
  13. The Lutheran Church– Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,312,111 members, down 1.08 percent.
  14. The Episcopal Church, 2,006,343 members, down 2.48 percent.
  15. Churches of Christ, 1,639,495 members, no membership updates reported.
  16. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
  17. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., 1,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
  18. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,400,000 members, members, no membership updates reported.
  19. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1,310,505 members, down 1.5 5 percent.
  20. Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1,162,686 members, up 4.37 percent.
  21. United Church of Christ, 1,080,199 members, down 2.83 percent.
  22. Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), 1,076,254 members, up .38 percent.
  23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ , 1,071,616 members, no membership updates reported.
  24. Seventh-Day Adventist Church. 1,043,606 members, up 4.31 percent.
  25. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. 1,010,000 members, down 59.60 percent (due in part to a new methodology of counting members).

For more information, or to purchase a copy of the 2011 Yearbook, see www.yearbookofchurches.org. Yearbooks from earlier years may be available at a d
iscounted price at 888-870-3325.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC’s 37 member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic Africa n
American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

– Source / Full Story: Mainline church membership decline continues – but more slowly, Philip Jenks, Worldwide Faith News, Feb. 14, 2011– © Worldwide Faith News. Published in Religion News Blog by permission.

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This post was last updated: Feb. 16, 2011