The National Council of Churches Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2007 edition has just been released, reporting new church membership numbers and growth trends on 224 “national church bodies.” An online press release
provides a taste of the information contained in the 439-page Yearbook, including membership and growth statistics for 25 of the largest denominations or communions in the United States.
Of these 25 church bodies, only 6 reported growth in membership since the 2006 Yearbook reports; 8 reported losses, and 11 reported no change at all.
The 6 American church bodies that reported an increase in membership are listed here in order of reported growth percentage:
1. The Churches of Christ reported a whopping 9.30% increase in membership, reflecting 139,500 additional members. However, their previous reported figures were in 1999, so this number reflects growth since that time. Unfortunately, this statistic doesn’t allow an accurate comparison with the other churches on the list, whose reported increases reflect changes over a one year period.
2. The Catholic Church, the largest church in America, reported an increase of 1.94% — adding 1,315,699 members.
3. The Assemblies of God reported an increase of 1.86%, growing by 51,692 members.
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported an increase of 1.63%, reflecting an addition of 91,270 members.
5. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church reported .53% growth — 7, 594 additional members.
6. The Southern Baptist Convention reported the smallest increase: .02% or 3, 253 additional members.
I remember not long ago the LDS Church claimed to be the fastest-growing church in America. More recently this claim has been tempered a bit and is now more often stated in terms of the LDS Church being one of the fastest growing churches in America.
Last month journalist Richard Ostling noted:
It’s often said that Mormonism is the fastest-growing major religious denomination. There are nearly 12.6 million members worldwide, of whom about 5.7 million are in the United States. However, a 2005 series by The Salt Lake Tribune indicated that many members on the church’s rolls are inactive.
I’m not sure how all of the statistics on active vs. inactive membership settles out in regards to actual LDS Church growth, but at least in this recent NCC report it’s evident that the LDS Church is neither the fastest- nor slowest-growing church body in America. It doesn’t hold a remarkable place in the field of growing churches; it turns out that LDS Church growth is…well, it’s average.
The Fastest Growing Church in the World? by Bill McKeever:
“Does accelerated growth of a group somehow validate that what the group teaches is true? To many Latter-day Saints, the growth (or perceived growth) of their church is evidence that the restored gospel of Mormonism must be true.” Read more…