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Comparative Statistics 2009, with introductory essay, Membership Change in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Trends in Gains and Losses

—Jack Marcum, coordinator, Research Services

The membership of the denomination has decreased steadily for quite some time. This essay presents the factors that, together, produce the annual membership totals and will help Presbyterians better understand how the denomination got to its present situation. (Download  full essay at the bottom of this section.)

See the Comparative Statistics 2009 tables:

1. PC(USA) Congregations and Membership, 1998 to 2009
2. Distribution of PC(USA) Congregations by Membership Size and Synod, 2009
3. PC(USA) Membership by Region and State/Territory, 2009
4. Membership Gains and Losses of PC(USA) Synods and Presbyteries, 2009
5. Distribution of PC(USA) Congregations with One-Fifth or More  Racial-Ethnic Membership by Synod, 2009
6. Fifteen Largest PC(USA) Congregations Based on Membership Size, 2009
7. Descriptive Statistics for PC(USA) Ministers and Candidates, 2000 to 2009
8. PC(USA) Active Ministers by Call and Synod, 2009
9. Number and Percent of Active PC(USA) Ministers by Call and Gender, 2005 to 2009
10. PC(USA) Membership, Total Individual Contributions, and Expenditures for Local Program and Local Mission by Synod and Presbytery, 2008 and 2009
11-12. PC(USA) Congregational Receipts, 2008 and 2009; PC(USA) Congregational Expenditures, 2008 and 2009
13. PC(USA) Synod and Presbytery Rankings Based on Per Member Validated Mission Expenditures, 2009
14. Race Ethnicity and Gender of PC(USA) Members, Elders, Deacons, Active Ministers and Commissioned Lay Pastors, 2009
15. Number of Congregations, How They Are Served, Worship Attendance and Giving Information by Membership Size, 2009
16. Technical Information

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  1. Most statistics say your caller is correct! Here's a look at major mainline denominations over time: http://www.pcusa.org/resource/recent-changes-membership-and-attendance-mainline-/ Figure 3 in this article shows similar information: http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/research/pdfs/cs-2006.pdf For another look, The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) has snapshots of the number of adherents of most denominations for 1980, 1990, and 2000. On this page: http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/US_2000.asp you can use the various tabs across the page under “Reports” to see the comparisons. The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches tracks these trends over time. 2011 edition: http://www.ncccusa.org/news/110210yearbook2011.html; 2010 edition: http://www.ncccusa.org/news/100204yearbook2010.html Finally, Gallup has asked Americans about their church attendance for years. There is some research that shows people tend to inflate what they report, the trends over time would probably have the same bias. Here is a look at the trend in the percent with no religious identity: http://www.gallup.com/poll/128276/Increasing-Number-No-Religious-Identity.aspx and here is a look at the trend in attendance: http://www.gallup.com/poll/117382/Church-Going-Among-Catholics-Slides-Tie-Protestants.aspx

    by Deborah Bruce, Research Services

    February 15, 2011

  2. I am with the PCUSA Foundation and just received and read "A Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations." The very next phone conversation I had was with a 98-year-old donor who happened to mention, "It seems like when I was young that every kid I knew when to one church or another. Not as many people go to church anymore." He asked if I knew any statistics about that. It would be great if you have some stats already prepared about church attendance, every 10 years or so, for Presbyterians compared to all others. We agreed that you do not need to go to any extra effort for this. It would just be nice if it already existed. Thank you for any help you can give us. John Turner

    by John Turner

    February 15, 2011

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