Facts and Trends

January 20th, 2012
This article is featured in the Call to Action (Feb/Mar/Apr 2012) issue of Circuit Rider

Charts and graphs depicting the following statistics are available for download in PDF format at the bottom of this article:

  • Average Worship Attendance, 1976-2009
  • Annual Percentage Change in Average Worship Attendance, 1976-2009
  • Total Professing Membership in the U.S. and Total Professing Membership as a Percentage of Total U.S. Population, 1790-2010
  • Change in Total Professing Membership, 1968-2009
  • Geographic Distribution of Worldwide Professing Membership in 1968 and 2009
  • Number of Active U.S. Elders in Major Age Groupings
  • Non-Capital Spending and Debt per Attendee, 1995-2009
  • General Church Funds Overview
  • Percentage of Apportionments Paid by Conference

Investing in Our Mission to Make Disciples and Transform the World

We are not a church driven by scarcity. We live in God’s abundance. The recommended budget total of $603 million is actually only a 3.46% decrease (-.87% per year) from what has been apportioned this quadrennium. The Call to Action is recommending a $60 million (10%) shift of general church funds to support the annual conferences and local churches as they focus on vital congregations. However, placing the program general agencies under one board will undoubtedly lead to cost-savings and synergy in the coming years. Although General Conference is responsible for the entire church, it actually makes decisions for less than 2% of our financial resources. Most of our resources are at the local church level. However, annual conferences send to the general church an average of 26% of what they apportioned to local churches. In addition, fewer than 23% of annual conferences paid 100% of general church apportionments in 2010. Unless we make some bold changes to focus resources on more vital congregations, we will soon face hard choices. (see Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.’s projection of the coming “Death Tsunami”.)

Bishop John L. Hopkins is the resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference and the chairperson of The Connectional Table.

U.S. Trends Lyle Schaller Is Watching

  1. Decrease in number of Methodist-to-Methodist or intradenominational transfers of membership from 309,760 in 1956 to 171,926 in 1980 to 86,575 in 2009.
  2. Increase in number of UM congregations reporting an average worship attendance under 35 from the 1980 total of 11,133 to 11,723 in 1990 to 12,300 in 2009.
  3. Change in number of new members received on Profession of Faith or Restored from 205,532 in 1970 to 209,894 in 1980 to 148,446 in 2009.
  4. Change in number of baptisms (all ages) from 199,237 in 1980 to 150,690 in 2000 to 108,183 in 2009.
  5. Changes in U.S. membership from 8,032,220 in 1944 (first time over 8 million) to 10,301,911 in 1965 to 9,825,540 in 1975 to 8,940,836 in 1988 to 7,931,733 in 2006 to 7,679,850 in 2009.
  6. The annual death rate among UM Church members in 1970 was 10.5 deaths per 1000 members compared to  14.4 deaths per 1000 members in 2000 and 13 deaths per 1,000 members in 2009.
  7. The number of new congregations organized in The Methodist Church in 1963 was 559 compared to 79 in 2010.
  8. The number of UM congregations reporting an average worship attendance of 750 or more grew from 141 in 1980 to 313 in 2001 to 319 in 2009.
  9. The number of UM congregations receiving more than 100 new members in one year decreased from 490 in 1980 to 388 in 2009 (total includes professions, faith restored and

And two important trends for which we need hard data:

  1. Increase in number of multi-site UM churches.
  2. Number of UM members who have left to join non-denominational churches.

Lyle Schaller is a church consultant and author of over forty books.


UMC Trends Charts
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