American congregations have grown less healthy in the last decade, with fewer people in the pews and aging memberships, according to a new Hartford Seminary study.
But there are also “pockets of vitality,” including an increase in minority congregations and a surge in election-related activities at evangelical congregations.
The findings coming from the new Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey are based on responses from more than 11,000 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations in 2010 and more than 14,000 congregations in 2000.
“It means we have a lot more smaller congregations,” said David Roozen, author of the report, “A Decade of Change in American Congregations, 2000-2010,” and director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
Across the board–among white evangelical, white mainline and racial/ethnic congregations–there was a decrease in attendance.
In the meantime, Roozen said, the racial/ethnic makeup of congregations is reflecting the U.S. Census Bureau’s prediction that minorities will constitute the majority of Americans by 2050.
The percentage of congregations with majorities of members from racial/ethnic groups, often including immigrants, grew from 23 percent to 30 percent over the decade. These congregations are disproportionately non-Christian or evangelical Protestant. They also tend to have younger members.