Recent Changes in Membership and Attendance in Mainline Protestant Denominations, November 2006

How much have the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and other U.S. mainline Protestant denominations shrunken in recent years, and how should we interpret that shrinkage? This question has concerned both mainline Protestants and religious researchers, as news about declining membership and worship attendance has filled the media.

Comparing changes in membership and average weekly worship attendance for the PC(USA) with changes in membership and attendance for other denominations can place those changes in context. Traditionally, religious researchers have categorized the PC(USA) as a mainline Protestant denomination. Mainline Protestant denominations were the dominant U.S. Protestant denominations in the 1700s, 1800s, and early 1900s. Most are rooted in the U.S. North, and most have maintained moderate theologies that stress both social justice concerns, on the one hand, and personal salvation and evangelism, on the other hand.

In the following pages are comparisons of changes in membership and average weekly worship attendance for the PC(USA) and half a dozen other U.S. mainline Protestant denominations.

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  1. We’re pretty close to the United Methodists. The median age of Presbyterians is now about 60 for members and elders, and 53 for pastors. (See http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/research/pdfs/a_presbyterian_panel_snapshot_2008.pdf) Those figures are from 2008—we’ll be updating them later this year.

    by Deborah Bruce

    June 6, 2011

  2. Do we have an average age for PC-USA members. I just read that the average United Methodist is 59 years old. Where would I find that information about PC-USA?

    by Phyliss Waldron

    June 6, 2011

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