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CHURCHSCENE – 2019 SURVEY

Non-denominational Churches of Christ in Australia

The 2019 Survey of Non-denominational Churches of Christ in Australia is now freely available on the Klesis Institute website (www.klesis.com.au).

 

Background

The first survey took place in 1984 and was conducted by Stephen Randall of the Canberra Church of Christ. Stephen conducted a further six surveys up to 2001. The next four surveys were conducted by Alan Rowley on behalf of Klesis. So, we now have a 35-year dataset on membership, attendance, and baptisms for non-denominational Churches of Christ in Australia. Peter Gray of Southern Pacific Christian Research has undertaken the analysis of results of each of the eleven surveys on a voluntary basis (our sincere thanks, Peter).

The surveys ask three simple questions of each congregation: the number of members; average Sunday attendance, and the number of baptisms over the previous 12 months. The figures relate to the month of October in the year of the survey. Since the 2006 survey, churches are also given the opportunity to update their church details to be included in the Directory of Non-denominational Churches of Christ in Australia. The Directory is also published on the Klesis website and is updated at least once annually.

What’s different in 2019?

Unlike previous survey reports, the 2019 survey report is in two parts. Part One presents highlights of the 2019 survey and provides an overview of the past 35 years. Part Two contains a more detailed analysis of the results, including information on the size of churches in rural and urban areas, major cities, and states & territories. Importantly, it provides details on changes in the size of churches from 2013 to 2019 along with some key questions resulting from the changes.
 

In the table below are the figures for 2019, compared with data from the past 20 years:  

Some trends

Over the last 20 years (2001-2019), there are some points to note:

· The average number of members per church remained between 23 to 25 and the average Sunday attendance during the period remained between 28 and 30 people.

· The period of greatest growth took place between the surveys of 2006 and 2010, with a 7.2% growth in members, an 8.4% growth in average Sunday attendance, and an 8.2% growth in the number of churches.

· 2010 saw the highest number of members (1,956) and highest average Sunday attendance (2,394).

· The number of members has dropped 0.8% (2010 to 2013) and 1.8% (2013 to 2019). Average Sunday attendances dropped by 2.3% (2010-2013) and 2.8% (2013 to 2019).
 

Interestingly, when we go back to the first survey in 1984 we see other trends. Over the 35-year period, the number of churches has increased significantly (nearly 25%). However, almost everything else is lower: total number of members (-1.0%); average Sunday attendance (-9.2%); average church size by members (-20.6%); and average church size by attendance (-27.3%).

Some questions

For those wanting to dig deeper, Part Two of the report is recommended. Part Two compares more detailed data from 2013 to 2019, with a particular focus on larger churches (with 100 members and above) and smaller churches (with less than 30 members). 

Comparing the 2013 and 2019 data suggests that we may have a two-track dynamic in process: larger churches are getting larger and smaller churches are getting smaller. If so, some questions come to mind:

· What accounts for the growth in larger churches?
· What lessons can larger churches offer to other churches?
· Why did smaller churches remain much the same in number yet fall in membership?
· How can larger churches help smaller churches to flourish?

Additional insights are also available in Part Two of the 2019 survey report concerning medium-size churches (30-79 members) and upper-medium size churches (80-99 members). Please consult the report for more details.

 

Conclusion

The 2019 survey has provided additional data and insights for everyone interested in non-denominational Churches of Christ in Australia. It’s also raised important questions worthy of further conversation. To facilitate this, Klesis is scheduling a one-hour Zoom webinar on Saturday, 21 November 2020, from 4.00-5.00pm(AEDT). During that session we intend to discuss the main findings of the report and encourage open conversation concerning possible trends and future plans. The webinar details will be sent to all who subscribe to InterSections. We encourage you to attend and also pass on the invitation to others who may be interested.

 

Finally, a big thank you to all the congregations who provided data for the 2019 survey to be completed.
May God help us to use this information to further his kingdom.

Alan Rowley a member of Belmore Road Church of Christ, Melbourne undertook the survey on behalf of Klesis Institute.   burlington.ajr@bigpond.com

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