By Roland Lovstad
Although membership declined by more than 25,000 people from 2003 to 2004, total contributions rose by $51 million among the 6,151 congregations in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
According to congregational reports of statistics for 2004, LCMS members contributed a record $1,307,764,010 to their congregations during 2004. Giving also increased by $53 million during 2003, following declines of $13.8 million in 2002 and $12.1 million in 2001.
Membership continues to decline. During 2004, congregations reported 2,463,747 baptized members or 25,189 fewer than 2003. Confirmed membership was 1,880,213, a decrease of 14,609.
“Since 1972, our peak membership year, the Synod has lost some 317,000 baptized members,” said Dr. John O’Hara, LCMS research analyst. “We have reported sporadic increases in baptized or confirmed members over the past 30 years, most recently in 1997 — a gain of some 1,900 — but they have been overwhelmed by the intervening declines.” (Approximately 124,000 of the member loss is attributable
to the schism of the 1970s.)
“Our recent history of membership losses should lend some urgency to such efforts as the Ablaze! initiative and ‘Igniting Congregations,'” O’Hara added.
From the $1.3 billion they received during 2004, congregations directed $121.8 million for work beyond their immediate communities. The total includes gifts to the 35 LCMS districts, which then send a portion to the national and international work of the Synod. Congregations sent $3.4 million less for “outside work” than in 2003.
O’Hara said most increases in total contributions have come in the “at home” category. “Since we don’t ask congregations about how they allocate their at-large contributions, other than district/Synod contributions, there is no way to gauge how special efforts, like the recent tsumani relief, have affected that category,” he added. He noted that some gifts from groups or individuals — since they may be given directly to special fund-raising efforts — don’t get counted in the congregations’ at-large giving.
The 2004 statistics were based on reports from 72 percent of the Synod’s congregations, according to O’Hara. If congregations did not report, the system automatically rolls forward their total membership numbers from the last time they reported. However, the system does not roll forward details about membership changes.
The Synod had 6,151 congregations served by 5,323 pastors in 2004. The number of congregations declined by nine, while the number of active pastors increased by 42. Average weekly worship attendance was 168.9 in 2004, compared to 158.9 the previous year.
During 2004, gains were reported in the number of non-members attending weekday religion classes and members gained from the outside. The weekday class figure rose by 92 to reach 26,660. Congregations gained 38,513 members from outside, an increase of 114 from 2003.
Among the official acts reported:
- 32,851 children were baptized (down 1,108).
- 25,325 teenagers were confirmed (down 217).
- 19,153 adults were confirmed (down 44).
Among their 2004 Christian education statistics, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod congregations reported:
- 4,152 weekday religion classes (down 91).
- 198,054 students in weekday religion classes (down 1,644).
- 3,985 vacation Bible schools (down six).
- 451,414 enrolled in Sunday school (down 20,078).
- 5,330 Sunday schools (no change).
The 2004 statistics will be included in the Lutheran Annual for 2006, which will be available from Concordia Publishing House by the end of the year.
Posted Sept. 6, 2005