From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Survey Shows 'Who Is Coming to Church'

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Mon, 24 Jun 2002 16:45:17 -0500


June 24, 2002


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Results from a national survey of attendees
of 420 randomly selected Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA) congregations have been calculated, and the ELCA Department
for Research and Evaluation is currently in the process of
determining worship attendance trends and how the results can
directly benefit the church's congregations.
     Results show who attends ELCA congregations and that many ELCA
members remain with their congregations for a long period of time.
     Never before has a survey of this magnitude been done, said
Martin H. Smith, senior research analyst for the department.  The
survey started when U.S. Congregations, a research group that works
from the offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), used a $1.3
million grant from the Lilly endowment to conduct an interfaith
survey.  The ELCA participated in the survey, using its templates and
scanning technology to survey its members only.
     U.S. Congregations surveyed 43,463 congregation attendees from
420 ELCA congregations in the United States.
     "Surveys like this have never been done before because they are
too expensive," said Smith.  "But now, because we used the same
survey that U.S. Congregations did, we can see how ELCA attendees
compare to those of other denominations."
     The ELCA survey was sent out April 29, 2001, to a selection of
congregations based on size and synod.  The ELCA has 5.13 million
members organized in 65 synods across the United States and the
Caribbean.  Questions ranged from "Are you regularly involved in
group activities?" and "Do you have a sense of belonging to this
congregation?" to personal questions about age, income, and number of
     Now that the results have been calculated, the ELCA will
compare its results to other denominations that conducted surveys and
to the national U.S. Congregations results, but with caution, said
Smith.  He warned comparing some of the results is like "comparing
apples and oranges."
     The U.S. Congregations survey asked: 'Which aspects of this
congregation do you personally value most?"  A majority of ELCA
church attendees answered "sharing in Holy Communion."  Comparing the
ELCA answer to the national U.S. Congregations answer regarding this
question, and others, may not be completely accurate, because some
religious groups surveyed do not participate in the Lord's Supper,
said Smith.
     "There is no one main issue we are looking to get out of the
survey," said Smith.  "The biggest thing we can get from the survey
is how we can strengthen our churches and learn more about who is
coming to church."
    The survey shows that a majority of ELCA attendees are White
    Smith said one staggering fact that is cause for alarm on the
ELCA results was that 93 percent of attendees are White or Caucasian.
    "We need to understand our need to be diverse," said Smith.
"Evangelism is a high priority issue."
    There was a difference between the ELCA answer and the national
survey answer for the question "How long have you been going to
worship services or activities at this congregation?"  While the
national results found that one in every three worshipers is new to
their congregation, 41 percent of ELCA attendees have been at their
congregations for more than 20 years.
    In addition to the 420 congregations first surveyed, the ELCA
sent out 130 surveys to fast-growing congregations. A fast-growing
congregation is one that has had its attendance rise every year, said
Smith.  These results will be compared to the other ELCA results to
examine attendees who switch churches frequently and those who do
    Congregations that participated in the survey will receive
their results and the total results.  To help the churches sort
through the material, they will be provided with a video and a book,
"A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations."  The book outlines and graphs
the results of the national survey.
-- -- --
More information about the national U.S. Congregations results
can be found at on the Web.

*Amy Wineinger is a junior at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa.  This
summer she is an intern with ELCA News and Media Production.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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