Census vs Attendance (2001)

Attendance as a Percentage of Census Identification

The proportion of people claiming to identify with a Christian denomination has dropped from 71% in the 1996 Census to 68% in the 2001 Census. What proportion of these people actually attend church frequently? The answer to this question varies significantly from one denomination to another. Attendance rates in larger mainstream denominations such as Anglican (5%) and Uniting (10%) are a small proportion of the overall number identifying. By comparison, Protestant denominations such as Baptist (36%), Churches of Christ (74%) and the Salvation Army (39%) tend to have much higher proportions attending.  

The proportion attending for each of these denominations has not changed much from the picture found in the 1996 Census (Kaldor et al, 1999, p17). An exception is the Churches of Christ, which now accounts for a greater proportion of people identifying than in 1996 (74% compared with 56%). The main reason for this change appears to be a sharp decline in the number of people identifying with the denomination between the 1996 and 2001 Census, coupled with an apparent increase in attendance over the same period.

For some of the larger mainstream denominations (Catholic, Lutheran and, Uniting) there have been decreases in the proportion of people attending of those identifying. Catholic attendance has decreased from 18% to 15% of those identifying, Lutheran from 18% to 16% and Uniting from 11% to 10%.   

Table 1

Denomination No. of People (2001 Census) 2001 Estimated Weekly Attendance Percent attending of people identifying
Anglican 3881162 177700 5%
Baptist 309205 112200 36%
Catholic 5001624 764800 15%
Churches of Christ 61335 45100 74%
Lutheran 250365 40500 16%
Pentecostal 194592 141700* 73%
Presbyterian & Reformed 637530 42100 7%
Salvation Army 71423 27900 39%
Seventh-day Adventist 53844 36600 68%
Uniting 1248674 126600 10%
* NCLS attendance estimate for 'Pentecostal' only includes Apostolic, Assemblies of God, Bethesda, Christian City Churches, Christian Revival Crusade and Vineyard

For more detail, see Occasional Paper 3 - 2001 Church Attendance Estimates

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