By Joe Isenhower Jr.
From statistical reports for 2007 filed by two-thirds of the 6,075 LCMS congregations, totals indicate that baptized membership throughout the Synod decreased by an estimated 34,913 (to 2,383,084) for the year and confirmed mem-bership dropped by 21,719 (to 1,835,064).
However, Dr. John O’Hara, senior research analyst for the Synod, told Reporter that the Synod’s 2007 membership statistics were “heavily impacted” by the fact that 25 large LCMS congregations reported dropping a total of some 13,000 members from their rolls, “primarily as a result of adjusting their own record keeping.”
Last year’s membership declines in the Synod continue a trend over more than 30 years — a trend that also prevails for most major Protestant denominations, O’Hara noted.
On the “plus” side, the number of reported “specialized ministries” grew dramatically, and total contributions rose by an estimated $44,316,144 (to $1,399,774,702) compared with 2006, with the total for work at home increasing by nearly $50 million. The average amount given during 2007, per communicant member, is estimated at $762.79 — an increase of $32.79 from the previous year.
For 2007, 3,657 congregations (up 1,365 from 2006) responded to a “specialized ministries” questionnaire. Tallies indicate that they conducted a total of 29,266 such ministries in 2007 (up 13,432) — including 3,076 Lutheran schools and early childhood centers (up 951), 10,356 (up 4,985) “other educational opportunities,” 8,954 (up 4,081) “human-care efforts,” 4,348 (up 2,191) “media efforts,” and 2,532 (up 1,224) “ministries to special needs,” such as among the developmentally disabled, the elderly, and armed forces personnel.
Specialized ministries also include satellite worship sites — with 122 congregations (39 more than in 2006) reporting that they host 139 such sites — as well as focused worship opportunities.
For 2007, more than 245 congregations reported providing 512 such worship opportunities — 171 (up 54) serving language or ethnic needs, and 341 (up 154) to serve those who are vision- or hearing-impaired.
Synod Secretary Raymond Hartwig said that while the numbers reported by congregations are “helpful, it would be really helpful if all congregations consistently returned report forms and questionnaires. Without the missing one-third, the tallies cannot provide an accurate picture.”
The average attendance at weekly worship services reported in 2007 was 165.7, compared with 172.5 in 2006. For 2006, that average rose by 8.3 over the 2005 average.
In the area of Christian education, the total of non-member children in weekday religion classes and the number of those classes rose, as did the number of Sunday schools. The number of vacation Bible schools and totals for children enrolled in Sunday schools dropped for 2007. Congregational statistics for 2007 were compiled by the LCMS Office of Rosters and Statistics.
Hartwig explained that to arrive at approximate statistics “for many of the categories,” figures for congregations not reporting were carried over from previous years and added to new information from the 2007 reporting forms returned by congregations. Membership changes are an exception, he pointed out, since they are tallied only from reporting congregations.
For 2007, the number of professions of faith (which are basically “lapsed” members reinstated to membership) declined by 424 (from 10,639 reported for 2006).
The number of reported “back-door losses” — of adults removed from congregational rosters (other than as a result of death of transfer) — for 2007 is 41,782. That is 4,369 more than the back-door losses reported for 2006.
Among official acts reported for 2007:
In the area of Christian education for 2007, reported were:
Membership, attendance, enrollment, and financial statistics for 2007 will be included in the Synod’s The Lutheran Annual for 2009, which is scheduled to be available from Concordia Publishing House by the end of this year.
“Looking ahead,” Hartwig said, “membership statistics for 2008 will once again become especially critical. Because they will be the basis for delegate representation to the 2010 [Synod] convention, we will again be making a concerted effort to achieve a 100 percent return. To the extent that we are successful, we will also be able to provide a more reliable statistical report at this time next year.”
Posted Oct. 2, 2008