From 5 Million to 4 Million

From 2001 to 2011, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lost just over 1 million members.  More specifically:

  • 2001 Membership: 5,099,877
  • 2011 Membership: 4,059,785
  • Membership Loss: 1,040,092 or 20.39%

So What?

The decline of the mainline is a popular topic, yet few are familiar with the dramatic nature of the numeric decline in membership and denominational funding.  While the numbers presented here reflect the change in the ELCA, similar decline is happening across the mainline: United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, American Baptist Convention, and Disciples of Christ.

  • How well do you know the story of decline within your mainline tradition?
  • If you are a follower of the way of Jesus who belongs to a tradition outside the mainline, can you summarize numeric trends in membership for your denomination over the last few decades?
  • Why is understanding this numeric decline essential to any attempts to reform, merge, or otherwise envision a different tomorrow for your current denomination?

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