The Australian Union Conference (AUC) has finalised the data entry for their biennial attendance survey, which took place in February.
This year was the first time an online option was available, and it proved to be successful, with just under 50 per cent of attendees using the website to complete their survey. This not only saved paper but enabled the data to be easily collated as the information was available immediately.
The survey found that church attendance was down 12 per cent, and Sabbath school attendance was down 7.7 per cent compared with the same Sabbath in 2019.
Due to COVID-19, this was not a surprising figure, and it is estimated that attendance numbers are up since February, as restrictions have eased.
Although attendance has decreased, there has been positive growth in tithe, with tithe increasing by 6.19 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019 and 9.74 per cent as of April 2021 compared with the same period in 2020. These figures are based on the actual reports in the Tithe & Offering accounting system used by local churches.
One concerning statistic from this year’s survey shows a proportional reduction in young people attending church. Overall, the 15-34 age group decreased from 18.9 to 16.9 per cent of the total attendance, with the males in this age group decreasing from 18.1 to 16.1 per cent.
Across Australia, pastors have noticed some members have not returned since churches closed last year due to COVID-19. Some members are choosing to participate from home, tuning in to live streamed services, but unfortunately, some have decided to not participate at all.
“These statistics remind us of our responsibility for pastoral care,” stated Pastor Michael Worker, general secretary of the AUC. “Pastoral care is not exclusively for pastors and elders, but it is a privilege of every church member.
“If you have noticed that someone hasn’t returned to church after COVID-19 lockdowns, reach out to them and check in. We need to make sure that we are nurturing one another and demonstrating Christian love, especially to those who are no longer worshipping with us,” he added.
Due to the reduction in attendees this year, some data has been hard to compare with previous years. However, the AUC is thankful to those who participated in the survey. The data is important to gain a perspective on the church in Australia and allows church leaders to adjust their strategy to help the church grow.
A comprehensive report on the attendance survey findings will be presented at the AUC Constituency Meeting in August.