Mainline Protestantism = Old

My denominational affiliationUntil around the year 2000 I always thought of the group of churches to which I have belonged as Mainline or Mainline Protestant.  Over the last several years I have heard a variety of terms used that convey the considerable decline in membership and cultural capital.

Data from the Pew Religious Landscape Study shows just how old the Mainline/Sidelined/Oldline Protestant traditions have become.






Percent of Members
Age 65+
Presbyterian Church (USA) 59 38
United Church of Christ 59 31
United Methodist 57 32
Episcopal 56 35
Lutheran (ELCA) 55 31
American Baptist 50 19


So What?

The three traditions I have been affiliated with as an adult had median ages of 59 (Presbyterian Church USA), 59 (United Church of Christ), and 55 (Lutheran – ELCA).  By comparison

  • The median age of all US adults at the time of the study was 46.
  • The median age of those with no specific religious affiliation was 38.
  • The median age of those who identified as atheist or agnostic was 34.

When one thinks about the decline of Mainline Protestantism over the last five decades, it is important to also note who remains.  In short, members of these traditions skew significantly older than

  • the adult population at large
  • the adult religious population as a whole
  • the adult non-religious population

If you are a part of a Mainline Protestant congregation:

  • What do you think the median age of your members is?
  • What does this overall aging trend mean for your congregation now? in the future?

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