Synod stats: membership drops, giving increases

By Linda C. Hoops

While the Missouri Synod’s 2010 statistics report shows a 1.45 percent loss in baptized membership — continuing a 30-plus-year trend in declining church membership experienced by most Protestant denominations — it also reveals a slight increase (1.05 percent) in total giving.

In 2010, LCMS members gave their congregations $1,375,784,215, up $14 million in total contributions.  Giving for local expenses increased by $20 million (1.56 percent) to $1,254,192,118, and the average amount given per-communicant member was $779.91, an increase of $16.78 (2 percent) from the previous year.

Baptized membership fell by 33,525 (to 2,278,586) and confirmed membership decreased by 20,115 (to 1,764,024).

The number of member congregations in 2010 fell by 20 (to 6,158). The number of ordained clergy serving in parishes was up by 33, to 5,369. The number of clergy serving in other capacities fell by 49 to 630, while the number of retired clergy increased by 29, to 2,928.

The average attendance at weekly worship services reported in 2010 was 152.6, compared with 156.1 in 2009, mirroring long-term attendance declines that have been reported in both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in recent decades.

The increase in the number of “specialized ministries” reported by congregations was a positive note in the report, as 4,672 congregations responded to a “specialized ministries” questionnaire. Tallies indicate that they conducted 43,113 such ministries in 2010 (up 2,988 from the previous year).

These included 18,904 “education ministries” (up 1,289), 13,637 “human care” efforts (up 958), 6,656 “media efforts” (up 468) and 3,916 (up 273) “special-needs ministries,” such as among the developmentally disabled, the elderly and armed forces personnel.

Some 404 congregations reported providing 855 “specialized worship services,” including 283 (up 26) serving language or ethnic needs, and 572 (up 53) to serve those who are vision- or hearing-impaired.

The statistical report forms are sent out annually to all congregations in January to report data from the previous year.  Results are compiled from February through May by the LCMS Office of Rosters and Statistics.   

Synod Secretary the Rev. Dr. Raymond Hartwig told Reporter that only approximately 60 percent of congregations return the statistical reports, and “with effort, that number has at times been increased to perhaps 70 percent. This, of course, is not helpful to obtain a true picture of our Synod’s membership, attendance or giving,” he said.

“This concern prompted the Synod’s Commission on Structure to submit an overture to the 2010 convention advocating an amendment to the Bylaws of the Synod, including the provision of annual statistical information as one of the expectations of membership described in Synod Bylaw 1.3.4.,” Hartwig added.  “In my meetings with circuit counselors and district presidents, I am making them aware of this bylaw expectation and enlisting their assistance in making our congregations aware, some of whom have not returned a report for many years,” he added.

“This once again becomes especially important when we send out report forms early in 2012. The information gathered will significantly affect the business of the 2013 Synod convention. Assisted now by a bylaw expectation, we are hoping for a much better return,” Hartwig said.

For 2010, the number of professions of faith (“lapsed” members reinstated into membership) fell substantially by 4,475 (30.7 percent) to 10,124, while the number of “back-door losses” — adults removed from congregational rosters (for reasons other than death or transfer) declined by 2,012 (5.28 percent), to 36,129.

The report showed that while the number of Sunday-school classes increased, the number attending those classes fell by 3.15 percent. Congregations reported the following in regard to Sunday schools:

  • 4,944 Sunday schools (up 74).
  • 363,389 enrolled in Sunday schools (down 11,824).
  • 1,188 weekday religion classes (up 13).
  • 84,199 students in weekday religion classes (up 863).
  • 20,244 non-members in weekday religion classes (up 1,395).
  • 3,562 vacation Bible schools (down 49).

Among other official acts reported for 2010:

  • 23,464 children were baptized (down 1,281).
  • 17,770 teenagers were confirmed (down 1,334).
  • 12,221 adults were confirmed (down 846).

Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.

Posted Sept. 28, 2011

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