There are many ways to answer the question of "if present trends continue, how long will the [Presbyterian] Church last?" For one thing, it depends on which period of time is chosen for the current or past trend--three years, five, ten, 25, 50? And what sort of trend line is used--linear, exponential, logarithmic, etc.? Here are a few values I get for the next ten years, and the assumptions behind each. Keep in mind that the 2012 membership for the PC(USA) is 1.85 million.
--Ten-year linear projection, based on 2006 to 2012 data: around 1.2 million
--Ten-year linear projection, base on 1983 to 2012 data: around 1.55 million
--Ten-year second-orderpolynomial function based on 2006 to 2012 data: around 0.8 million
--Ten-year second-order polynomial function (second order) based on 1983 to 2012 data: 1.35 million
If I keep trying various assumptions, I can come up with a projection that would have the PC(USA) disappearing before 2020. But I don't for a moment think that is at all realistic. Will the PC(USA) continue to show net membership losses? Yes, for the foreseeable future; given that we've now had annual net losses for 47 years running, any other scenario seems a bit fanciful. But projections are exercises, not predictions, and I would be very, very hesitant to guess what the membership number will at any specific future date.
If present trends continue how long will the Church last?
We are working on the 2012 Comparative Statistics tables, and should have them ready by the end of July.
If you have a specific statistic you are interested in, please contact Ida Smith-Williams in Research Services: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'd be interested in seeing the 2012 statistics if they are available.
Actually, that represents a 22 percent drop in membership over ten years. The only word to describe that is "tanking."
A 20% drop in membership should be a wake-up call to someone. (hint: it's a strong indication that the leadership is out of touch and going in the wrong direction)