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Church Attendance in Australia

Australian church attendance

A pastor-friend asked:

The National Church Life Survey showed that in 1960 41% of the Australian population attended church at least monthly, but by 1980 this figure had declined to 25% and was heading down to 20% by 2000. (Kaldor, Peter et. al. Build My Church: Trends and Possibilities for Australian Churches. Sydney: Openbook, 1999, p.22)

Has anyone got more up-to-date figues from more recent reading or stats for the lastest equivalent figure of church attendance at least monthly?

Grace & peace,

Here’s the best source – http://www.ncls.org.au/

If you follow the links on this site you’ll come across such statistics as below (and much much more):

(Pardon the plain text-mangled formatting, but you’ll get the drift):

* Shalom! Rowland Croucher * * http://jmm.org.au/ * (17,000+ articles, 4000 clean jokes/stories)

http://victoriaconcordiacrescit.blogspot.com/ * ~~~

Statistics from the latest National Church Life Survey (NCLS) indicate that attendances at church services in the large Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church, are continuing to decline. The present figures were based on a five-yearly survey conducted in 2001 – the previous one being in 1996.

In 2001 around 435,000 church attenders from over 7,000 parishes and congregations in 19 denominations took part. Other figures from surveys conducted by individual churches between 1996 and 2001 were taken into account.

NCLS statistics on beliefs and practices among the Churches will be released during the year and are likely to parallel the decline in church attendances.

Earlier figures from the Catholic Church Life Survey of 1996 (run in conjunction with the NCLS) and surveys of Catholic secondary school students by Br Marcellin Flynn and of students at Australian Catholic University by Professor Denis McLaughlin have indicated low levels of belief and practice among the young Catholics who represent the Church’s future.

For the Catholic Church, the one positive in the latest NCLS survey is that Catholics, while just over a quarter of the population, are by far the nation’s largest church-attenders (50.2 percent). Anglicans are a distant second at 12 percent.

But, compared with 1996, Catholic church attendance has declined by 13 percent. Uniting Church numbers have fallen by 11 percent and Anglicans by just two percent. The Anglican figure, as the NCLS report indicates, “masks different experiences in each diocese” with declines in rural dioceses “counterbalanced by a significant increase in attendance in the Sydney diocese”, by far the largest Anglican diocese.

Significantly, Sydney is Evangelical and conservative, as are the various smaller Protestant denominations that continue to grow, such as the Assemblies of God and the Baptists.

Overall, the NCLS survey predicts a bleak future for the major Churches: “It is now unlikely that the large mainstream denominations, with their older age profiles, will be able to replace the large percentages of attenders who will inevitably be lost to death or infirmity in the coming years.”

The proportion of the Australian population present at church on a typical weekend in 1996 was 9.9 percent; in 2001 it had fallen to 8.8 percent. At the same time, the proportion of people claiming to identify with a Christian denomination had fallen from 71 percent in the 1996 Census to 68 percent in 2001.

Proportions of the memberships of major denominations at church on a typical weekend were as follows: Anglican five percent, Uniting 10 percent (down from 11 percent in 1996) and Catholic 15 percent (down from 18 percent). By contrast, attendance figures for small fundamentalist Christian Churches were high: Churches of Christ 74 percent, Pentecostal 73 percent and Seventh-day Adventist 68 percent.

Declining levels of belief in Church teachings identified by the 1996 Catholic Church Life Survey are likely to parallel the falling church attendances, given that younger attenders have lower rates of belief.

The 1996 survey found only 63 percent of those aged 15-39 attending weekly Mass accepted the central article of Christian faith that “There is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” while 83 percent of those over 60 did so. 80 percent of those aged over 60 affirmed that the consecrated bread and wine “Truly become the sacred Body and Blood of Christ,” but only half of those under 40 did so.

Under the category of “The Faith Experiences and Beliefs of Church Attenders”, Catholics, compared with the other 21 Christian denominations surveyed, were ranked second last on the proposition: “Strongly agree Christ was God, human, rose from dead.” Presumably non-attending Catholics would have even lower levels of belief.

On the question of abortion, only 36 percent of Mass attending Catholics agreed that “Abortion should never be permitted”, while 10 percent thought “Abortion should be more generally available.”



Media Release – 28th February 2004

Australia is experiencing a dramatic shift in its religious landscape with people flocking to high-energy, contemporary Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, while most traditional denominations are experiencing significant decline.

This is the clear picture presented by the latest National Church Life Survey – the nationwide ‘census’ of Australian church attendance.

Key findings of the changes between 1996 and 2001 include:


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