Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Numbers: 2011

I didn't do a "numbers" post last year; I don't know why, but it's possible that they were snuck out because they were so bad. This year they are being announced with quite a bit of fanfare, because, for the first time in years, domestic dioceses other than South Carolina are showing gains.

Let's go to the fast facts first, because it is here that the most edifying numbers appear. Last year's numbers were terrible: all the gross numbers declined, including Plate & Pledge; this year Average Sunday Attendance bumped up very slightly, for the first time in many years, and P&P resumed its climb. That, however, is about the extent of the good news in the large. Membership and number of parishes both fell, at the same steady rate of 3%/year for the former and 1%/year for the latter. The 5 and 10 year trend numbers are essentially unchanged across the board, with the percentage of churches reporting over 10% loss of ASA in five years still staying well above 50%. The membership and ASA loss over ten years continues to worsen. The median parish continues to shrink, showing a loss of 10% in both membership and ASA in the past five years. P&P continues to fail to keep pace with inflation, even considering the decline in parishes.

The diocesan and provincial statistics present a slightly rosier picture. Membership rose in many dioceses, including almost all those in Provinces 7 (lower midwest) and 9 (Latin America). A lot of these gains, however, were infinitesimal, and only Province 7 among the domestics didn't show a net loss. And membership numbers are less accurate due to the infrequency with which many parishes clean their rolls. ASA increased in most provinces, though the increase in Province 2 can be attributed entirely to the Diocese of Haiti; Province 9 showed a substantial loss due to a large drop in Honduras and a smaller but still large loss in Colombia.

And then comes the other asterisk: this was a "Christmas bump" year, because Christmas Day fell on a Monday, and therefore Christmas Eve attendance counted towards ASA. It's reasonable to expect, given the consistent long term losses, that next year is going to record another set of across the board losses.

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