Monday, September 01, 2008

An assessment of Churches of Christ in 2008

Our resident church statistician Flavil Yeakley has recently compiled a report entitled Good News and Bad News: A Realistic Assessment of Churches of Christ in the United States 2008. Yeakley presented his findings a few months back to a group of church leaders, but I don't think many church members are aware of his report. Unfortunately, Yeakley has not put his report online, but you can purchase it from the Harding Bookstore. I did find some slides online that detail much of the report.

In the report, Yeakley attempts to correct some misinformation that is circulating about the church using statistics from other published sources and from several surveys he has recently conducted. The surveys were completed by students and alumni from Christian colleges and universities and by church leaders about members that have graduated from high school in the past 10 years.

Here are some of the more interesting points from the report (good and bad news), in no particular order:
  • In 2000, the Churches of Christ was the 12th largest religious body in the US (1.6 million adherents).

  • In 2000, only the three largest denominations (Catholic Church, Southern Baptist, United Methodist) had more congregations in the US.

  • 87.9% of congregations in the Churches of Christ have less than 200 in attendance, 5.5% have between 200 and 300 in attendance, and 6.7% have more than 300.

  • The 5 states with the most Church of Christ members and congregations: Texas (22.4%), Tennessee (13.2%), Alabama (7.2%), Arkansas (5.3%), and Oklahoma (4.9%).

  • The Churches of Christ are more evenly distributed throughout the nation than any other religious body.

  • From 1980-2000, the Churches of Christ have grown by 45,407 adherents (2.8%), ranking 6th in growth of all religious bodies.

  • From 2000-2006, the Churches of Christ have lost 0.3% of their adherents.

Retention

What makes young people continue to be active in the church once they leave college?
  • A young person who attends a secular university but is actively involved in a local congregation is more likely to remain a member of the Church of Christ after graduation than a young person who attends a Christian university but is not actively involved in a local church (i.e., sending your kid to a Christian college is not going to necessarily ensure they will be a part of the church when they leave; they must personally decide to be involved while they are a student).
  • 30% of Church of Christ high school graduates later attend a Christian college, and 50% attend a secular college.

  • Retention rates are highest for those Churches of Christ who see themselves as relatively similar doctrinally to other Churches of Christ (i.e., churches that see themselves as very liberal or very similar tend to lose more members).

Divorce

Divorce is a serious problem affecting the church, but the numbers are quite as bad as some have assumed.
  • Among young people who graduated from high school within the past 10 years, 4.2% of those who are members of the Church of Christ have divorced. Compare this to 8.1% of the general US population who graduated high school within the past 10 years and divorced.

  • The divorce rate for current members of the Church of Christ who graduated from a Christian college is 5.4%; alumni who currently are not affiliated with any church have a divorce rate of 20.7%.