By the Numbers: where’s the growth?
Last week I posted the global growth numbers. This week let’s look at UU membership growth trends by congregational size breakdown…
(Edited to explain size catagories) In the following graphs I use 7 different catagories instead of the traditional 4 or 5. The reason is that congregations behave differently and have different needs depending on their size (and other variables.) The primary audience I prepare data analysis for are practitioners in the field, mostly Congregational Life staff. And those front-line growth experts that serve and support our congregations use the following size catagories:
Small Pastoral Congregations (61-160)
Midsize Pastoral Congregations (161-300)
Awkward/Transition Congregations (301-400)
Program Congregations (401-600)
Large Program Congregations (601-800)
Corporate Congregations (800+)
Yes, you read that correctly. There is a category I call “Awkward” — it’s the hardest size to breakthrough. A couple years ago I asked leaders of congregation in that 301-400 bracket if the name was offensive. Most laughed and said, “no, it’s actually pretty accurate.” There is a Facebook group for the two smallest categories called “Small & Mighty.” There are just somethings that only congregational leaders in your size category will understand. It’s good to compare notes, share ideas, learn from the challenges and celebrate the blessings.
This is a ten year span we’re looking at. Here’s the raw data:
Fellowship/Tiny: -12.6% (13,991-12,223)
Small Pastoral Congregations: -2% (36,729-36,007)
Midsize Pastoral Congregations: -3.3% (43,894-42,451)
Awkward/Transition Congregations: -6.5% (19,907-18,609)
Program Congregations: 4% (17,578-18,286)
Large Program Congregations: 11.3% (11,205-12,471)
Corporate Congregations: 20.7% (13,726-16,565)
Now watch what happens when we look at a three year span:
Here’s the raw data:
Fellowship/Tiny: Small Pastoral Congregations: (13,170 – 12,223)
Midsize Pastoral Congregations: (43,059 – 42,451)
Awkward/Transition Congregations: (19,188 -18,609)
Program Congregations: (17,855 – 18,286)
Large Program Congregations: (12,241 – 12,471)
Corporate Congregations: (18,283 – 16,565)
Don’t panic about our largest congregations. The majority of them got real about what it means to be a member of their congregation and “cleaned the membership books.” I see this as a strong sign of organizational maturity.
These two graphs really hit home what a difference the time span you’re looking at can make.
Rev. Tandi Rogers spends about an eighth of her job researching and analyzing data on behalf of the UUA Board, Leadership Council, and Congregational Life staff. She also serves on the Faith Communities Today interfaith consortium of religious data geeks.