According to a story released today on the UU World Web site, total membership in Unitarian Universalist congregations dropped again this year, from 164,196 members to 162,796 members. If I did my math right, this represents a drop of about 1.58%. (The story incorrectly states that these represent the numbers of adults, but some congregation allow legal minors to become full members; therefore, it is more accurate to simply say the number of members has dropped.)
Since U.S. population is growing at about 1% a year, that means Unitarian Universalism is shrinking even faster considered as a percentage of the total population. But there’s an even bigger reason to worry about the decline, because as UU World reports:
Registration in religious education programs fell for the fourth consecutive year. It dropped 2.1 percent to 54,671.
Religious education programs has been perhaps our most effective entry point for adults in their late 20s through early 40s — they bring their kids to Sunday school, then sometimes stick around after their kids grow up. Dropping religious education enrollments indicate that we are going to see dropping numbers of adults in the 25-45 age range.
If you’re not panicking yet, UU World also reports that:
Average Sunday attendance showed a decline for the first year, falling by 1,539 people. That’s a decline of 1.5 percent to 100,693 people.
A drop in Sunday attendance often precedes a decline in membership, since usually someone stops attending services months or even years before ending formal membership affiliation. The drop in attendance prompts me to predict that membership will continue to decline next year.
Why are we declining? I’d love to hear your comments first. I’ll summarize some of my thoughts on the matter tomorrow.