May - June 2016

By Richard Houseal
From the column By the Numbers

Chart of naz pastors age distributions
Click the image to view the full-resolution version

If you compare USA/Canada weekly worship attendance in 2015 with that of 25 years earlier, you would see they are close. In 1990, weekly worship averaged 476,773, while in 2015 it was 475,253. However, attendance peaked in 2005 at 528,073 in the region. This means that over the past decade, we actually have experienced a decline in attendance of almost nine percent.

Over the past quarter century, the distribution of those in USA/Canada churches has changed as well. In 1990, 11 Nazarene churches averaged 1,000 or more in worship. At that time, this represented about 3.5 percent of total attendance for the region. In 2015, however, the number of churches averaging 1,000 or more stood at 32, which represents 9.7 percent (1 in 10) of attendance for the region. The largest percentage of our churches (28.4 percent) is found in the 100 to 249 in worship attendance category. Another 17.8 percent of our churches are in the 250 to 499 category, and 11.1 percent have between 500 and 999 attending worship.

Chart of naz pastors age distributions
Click the image to view the full-resolution version

The USA/Canada Region still has a lot of small churches—3,800 (75 percent) of 5,059 active churches. Overall, just over 476,000 attend worship in the USA/Canada Region weekly. Of these, about 156,710 (33 percent) worship in churches with attendance of less than 100.

Additionally, the cultural makeup of the region has changed over the past 25 years. In 1990, 88.6 percent of our churches were predominantly white, English-speaking. By 2015, that figure had dropped to 76.6 percent. Predominantly Hispanic congregations showed the biggest increase, going from 3.5 percent of churches in 1990, to 11.6 percent in 2015. Congregations with a predominant cultural group other than white/English-speaking tend to have a smaller attendance; therefore, their proportion of the overall worship attendance is not changing as quickly as their proportion of churches.

Richard Houseal is senior program manager of Research Services for the Church of the Nazarene.

See related articles on Demographics Matter and Congregational Finances—a Worrisome Trend in this edition of P&B eNews.

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