NCLS Research

Attender Demographics

Who are the people who attend churches in Australia? Diversity in age, gender, education, and ethnicity point to different perspectives and experiences of life.

Looking at who goes to church also reveals the extent to which the churches are connecting with wide society.

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Fast Facts

Church attender demographics:
  • Age - The church has an older age profile than the wider Australian community
  • Gender - 61% of attenders are female
  • Ethnicity - 75% are Australian-born
  • Education - 23% have university degrees (compared to 13% of all Australians over 15 yrs)
  • Employment status - Around half of all church attenders are employed and 30% are retired
  • Marital status - 62% are in their first marriage
    (NCLS 2001)

More Cartoons

Guess Who's Going to Church These Days

Dishes from the dinner party last night are sitting in the sink. My daughter needs her third change of clothes for the morning and I haven’t made her bottle yet. The car is yet to be packed and the morning routine is completely out of sync. It is Sunday and I am planning to get to church this morning at least before the second song starts. I am just one of the many people who are going to church these days.

The 2001 National Church Life Survey provides a glimpse of church attenders, their age, gender, education, marital and employment status, together with other demographic information. So, who is going to church these days?

If you guessed aged over 40, female, with a university degree, in their first marriage, and who is either employed or retired you would be pretty close to the mark.*

Age
When compared to the wider Australian community the church has an older age profile. While some denominations such as the Pentecostals, Baptists, and Churches of Christ do better at attracting young adults with 30%, 23%, and 22% respectively of their members between the ages of 15 and 29, others such as the Catholic (12%), Anglican (11%) and Uniting Churches (8%) fare less well.

Gender
The 2001 survey indicated that males are underrepresented in the church (39%). While the higher number of women is partly related to the older age profile of the churches there remains some discrepancy in every age group.

Ethnicity
Three quarters of attenders were born in Australia and a further 8% were born in another English-speaking country. The 17% estimate of those born in a non-English speaking country is however likely to be a conservative one due to the absence in the survey of many single-ethnic congregations and groups. The Catholic Church is more likely to have attenders from non-English speaking countries.

Education
Church attenders tend to be well educated, with more than twice as many university graduates compared to the general population (23% vs 10%). Anglican and Baptist attenders have the highest levels of university-educated attenders (28%), while the Salvation Army at 12% is the closest to the general population.

Employment Status
Around half of all church attenders are employed with 28% in full time employment, 14% in part time work and 9% who are self employed. Some 30% of church attenders are retired, reflecting the older age profiles of attenders in many denominations. Around 15% indicated they are performing full-time home duties or family responsibilities and 9% are students. Around 3% are unemployed.

Marital Status
Some 62% of attenders are in their first marriage. However, significantly higher levels of separated or divorced attenders are to be found in the Salvation Army and Pentecostal denominations.

* Of course this is a collection of attributes of church attenders, rather than a single type!

Source: National Church Life Survey 2001

NCLS Research Findings on Attender Demographics

Showing 1-9 (of 9)
NCLS research has documented the under representation of young adults in church life.
How can churches responded to changes in employment, including sectoral, working hours and gender?
Education is another area where church attenders do not reflect the community as a whole.
A more highly educated population than ever before: how can churches respond?
Ethnicity of church attenders (Research Article)
A profile of the ethnicity of church attenders
Only 39% of attenders are male
An awareness of changes in household and family structures in the community can aid ministry
Church attenders are predominantly in their first marriage (62%)
Australia is ethnically and culturally diverse with almost half the population born overseas

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