RESEARCH

Church Attendance

Outreach Canada Website / Thursday, August 28, 2014

In recent years, there have been growing concerns over dwindling church attendance numbers. With church trends constantly changing, and the size of each church changing with it, how many people do we see in the pews on Sunday? How is this number representative of the average size of a church in Canada? Here, we will examine church attendance in Protestant churches from 1990-2003 in an attempt to some of these questions.

Within the Protestant church in the years from 1990-2003, we can see a fluctuating rise and decline of the percentage of churches with an average worship attendance of less than 75 people. Starting at 42.8% in 1990, that percentage continually changes until in 2003 it rises to 46%. On the other extreme, the percentage of Protestant churches with an average worship service attendance of over 350 people fluctuates very little between 3.8% and 4.3% from 1990-2003. If we look at the same averages, but specifically for churches with an Evangelical affiliation, we see the percentage of churches with an average worship attendance of less than 75 continues to drop between 1990-2000 starting at 51.4% and ending at 42.9% in 2000. But, that percentage rises significantly between 2000 and 2003 to 46%.  Similarly, the percentage of Evangelical churches with an average attendance of over 350 people doubles from 1990-2000; starting at 4.2% and rising to 8.1%. But, it also drops in 2003 to 7.6%.

Furthermore, for the Protestant churches with an average attendance between 75-150 people, we see little to no change. From 1990-1998, the percentage stays around 32%, but then rises in 2000 to 34.1% and drops in 2003 to 31.2%. For the Evangelical churches, however, this percentage fluctuates in the period from 1990-2003. But, in these years we see a trend towards the average declining. Lastly, the percentage of Protestant churches with an average attendance between 151-350 people has declined. In 1990, this category was at 21.4%, but it has steadily decreased since then to 18.5%. Evangelical churches, on the other hand, experienced a steady increase in this category between 1990-2000, coming from 16.3% to 19.3%, but then dropped slightly in 2003 to 18.7%.

Thus, in this thirteen year period, we can see a change in church attendance trends. While some categories have continuously fluctuated during this period, we see an increasing number of churches with an attendance of 350 or more people, particularly in the Evangelical affiliation. Recently, however, the percentage of churches with an average attendance of less than 75 people has seen an increase, parallel with the decrease in 2003 in the percentage of churches with more than 350 people. In between, we see a continuous change in attendance numbers.

 

Click here for charts as a PDF file


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