NCLS Research

Church Size and Growth

Church size: Around 19% of Australians are in church at least monthly. The Catholic Church is the largest denomination. The average congregation is 60-70 people. Extensive NCLS data tells more about the size of churches.

Church growth: Much has been made of the decline of churches in recent decades. The story is not quite that simple…Where is growth occurring?

Survey explored:

  • Stated reasons for non-involvement in church and why people drop out of church life.
  • Relationships between church attendance patterns and other aspects of life (eg: family life, involvement in leisure activities, work, patterns of belief and meaning) (2001 Census).
  • Some 19% of Australians claim to attend church at least monthly (Well-being 2003).
  • In a typical week, church estimates reveal about 1.7 million people or 9% of the population attend a Catholic, Anglican and Protestant church (NCLS 2001).
  • The Catholic Church is the largest denomination with around half of all church attenders, followed by the Anglican Church with 12% (NCLS 2001).
  • Growth and decline varied dramatically among denominations, ranging from 42% growth to 17% decline between 1996 and 2001.(NCLS 2001)

The 2001 National Church Life Survey comprised of some nineteen denominations and surveyed some 435,000 attenders from over 7,000 parishes. These denominations represent more than 80% of regular church attenders in Australia.


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