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2010 State of the Church: Membership

As of Dec. 31, 2008, The United Methodist Church had approximately 11 million professing members and an additional 2.5 million baptized members in Africa, Europe, the U.S. and the Philippines. Compared to 10 years earlier, professing membership globally has increased more than 14% or by more than 1.38 million; baptized membership has risen nearly 27%, by more than 500,000.

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Central Conference/Region

1998 Members

2008 Members

Change in Membership

Africa Central128,016374,090246,074
Congo630,6971,090,863460,166
West Africa*316,8251,636,8151,319,990
Central and Southern Europe22,21816,162-6,056
Germany39,80033,364-6,436
Northern Europe and Eurasia19,11015,560-3,550
Philippines66,901201,344134,443
United States8,363,5847,774,420-589,164
Total9,587,15111,142,6181,555,467

* Includes the addition of the 660,000-member Methodist Church of the Ivory Coast in 2005.

The United Methodist Church counts two types of members: baptized and professing.

Baptized members are all persons who have received Christian baptism in a United Methodist church or have transferred their baptized membership from another church.

Professing members are baptized persons who have come into membership in The United Methodist Church by profession of faith. Professing membership is an expression of our baptismal covenant in which we profess our faith in God and declare our desire to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Addressing Decline In Membership Trends

The 2008 General Conference took bold steps to address declining membership in the U.S. and Europe when it adopted the Four Areas of Focus: 

  • Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world;
  • Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations;
  • Engaging in ministry with the poor; and
  • Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.

These focus areas are the centerpiece of a movement across the denomination that is bringing vision and inspiration to United Methodists globally as well as producing measurable results. 

We are seeing creative and innovative leadership growing across the church. For example, leaders in one Florida church have more than tripled the size of the congregation thanks to outreach ministries, such as a recovery program and a new community center. Other examples include:

  • 177 new congregations have begun worldwide. A series of United Methodist Mission Initiatives sponsored by the General Board of Global Ministries started 106 new congregations outside of the U.S. in 2009; another 71 congregations began in the U.S. In the last five years, 360 new congregations have been planted in the U.S.
  • A free pharmacy opened in central Ohio to engage in ministry with the poor. The pharmacy resulted from a partnership led by the West Ohio Annual Conference. It will work with area hospitals, medical associations, health organizations and foundations. 
  • 30,000 bed nets were distributed to more than 8,000 homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April 2010. The United Methodist Church contributed $150,000 to a faith-based initiative there to fight malaria.

In the brief time since the 2008 General Conference, innovative dialogue around church structure and practices has begun and continues to take place to improve how we work and communicate across the denomination. New partnerships are emerging to strengthen our efforts to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

Areas of Growth

In 2007-2008, 34.7% of the United Methodist churches in the U.S. reported membership growth, with an average increase of 3.3% over 2006-2007. 

 

Churches with larger memberships tended to grow, while smaller-membership churches tended to shrink. The average growing church reported 325 members in 2008; the average shrinking church reported 182 members.

Professing membership in the U.S. has decreased 7%, or nearly 590,000 over the last 10 years. Professing membership in the U.S. has declined every year since The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968. In recent years, the rate of decline has grown steeper: the year-to-year rate of decline for the church in the U.S. was -0.48% in 1997-1998. It increased to -1.01% in 2007-2008.