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2010 State of the Church: Congregational Life Survey

The General Council on Finance and Administration’s office of Analysis & Research recruited congregations to participate in the United States Congregational Life Survey on either April 26, 2009, or May 3, 2009.  Churches were asked to distribute a survey questionnaire to each worshipper in the pews on the chosen Sunday.  Participating churches were randomly selected from a list of congregational leaders who indicated an interest in the project on their 2008 Congregational Leadership Survey.   Additional racial/ethnic churches were recruited with the help of leaders of United Methodist caucuses. Nearly 200 churches registered to participate in the survey, and more than 70% returned the completed materials.  The final data represents 141 churches with 8,622 individual worshippers. 

Based upon survey data, United Methodists in the United States are, more often than not, U.S.-born, educated, married and middle class. Over 96% of United Methodists said they were born in the U.S.; among the general U.S. population, 88% are U.S.-born. Over 92% of U.S. United Methodists have earned at least a high school diploma; 87% of the general U.S. population has earned at least a high school diploma. Just over half of United Methodists are in their first marriage. A bare majority (51%) reports household income of $50,000 or more.

The median age of the population in the U.S. is 35; the median age of attendees in The United Methodist Church is 57. The following chart divides the U.S. population 18 and over into age groups. The red bars represent the percentage of the total U.S. population in the age groups; the blue bars represent the percentage of United Methodist attendees in the age groups, according to the survey results.

Respondents to the survey said the aspects of congregational life they personally value the most are sharing in Holy Communion and listening to sermons.  Nearly half of participants said they have a strong sense of belonging to their current congregation. 

When asked if their congregation had a clear vision, goal or direction for ministry, 35% agreed that it did and stated they were strongly committed to those goals.

In terms of financial giving to their congregation, 32% said they give 5-9% of their net income regularly, while 23% of respondents give 10% or more of their net income regularly.